The Bush administration had argued that a 2001 congressional authorization to use military force after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks allowed the president to detain people living in the United States, The New York Times reported. Tuesday's decision -- a 5-4 vote of the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, one of the most conservative in the country -- reverses a decision by a three-judge appeals court panel, which ruled the government couldn't hold civilians indefinitely as enemy combatants.
The day wasn't a complete victory for the Bush administration, the Times said.
A different appeals court 5-4 majority ruled that Ali al-Marri, the detainee in the case, must be given the opportunity to challenge his detention in federal court. Marri is being held in military custody in Charleston, S.C.
The Times said Marri is the only person on the U.S. mainland being held as an enemy combatant. The government says Marri, arrested in 2001 in Peoria, Ill., where he was a university student, was an al-Qaida agent sent to the United States to commit mass murder and attack the banking system, the report said.