Federal Judge Blocks Obama’s Right to Impose Indefinite Detention without Trial

Friday, May 18, 2012
Judge Katherine Forrest (Source: NYU School of Law News)
A New York federal judge has temporarily blocked provisions of the controversial National Defense Authorization Act approved by President Barack Obama on December 31, 2011, which allows the military to indefinitely detain terrorism suspects, including American citizens.
U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest agreed with the so-called Freedom Seven, a group of journalists, academics, and foreign politicians who challenged the new law, saying that section 1021 was unconstitutional. In her ruling, Forrest wrote that the statute failed to “pass constitutional muster” due to its broad language that could stifle political dissent.
“There is a strong public interest in protecting rights guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Forrest wrote. “There is also a strong public interest in ensuring that due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment are protected by ensuring that ordinary citizens are able to understand the scope of conduct that could subject them to indefinite military detention.”
Obama apologists say that the act does not codify indefinite detention. But section 1021 (c-1) allows “Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of hostilities.” A U.S. president can take the position that he is engaged in a war without end. In fact, that is exactly what Presidents George W. Bush and Obama have done. In addition, section (b-2) states that the law applies not just to members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but to any person who has “substantially supported” “associated forces.” Because these terms are not defined, Obama would appear to be free to interpret them as he chooses…as would be any future president.
The Freedom Seven includes Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Christopher Hedges, Pentagon Papers whistl-blower Daniel Ellsberg, scholar Noam Chomsky, and parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir of Iceland.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Judge Blocks Controversial NDAA (by Adam Klasfeld, Courthouse News Service)
Christopher Hedges et al. v. Barack Obama (U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York) (pdf)
Obama Signs into Law Indefinite Detention of Americans without Trial (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)



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