Earlier this week, a Federal judge granted a preliminary injunction to block provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act that allowed for the indefinite military detention of American citizens.
In statute 1021 of the NDAA, language is included that lets the military detain anyone it suspects “substantially supported” al-Qaida, the Taliban or “associated forces” without charge or trial until the “end of hostilities.”
U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest issued a 68-page ruling explaining that the indefinite detention statute fails to “pass Constitutional muster.” The judge opined that the broad language of the bill could be used to quell political dissent.
“There is a strong public interest in protecting rights guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Forrest writes. “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.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges filed suit in the weeks following President Barack Obama’s New Year’s Eve signing of the NDAA into law. According to Courthouse News Service, more activists, scholars and politicians subsequently joined the suit, including Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg; Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Noam Chomsky; Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir; Kai Wargalla, an organizer from Occupy London; and Alexa O’Brien, an organizer for the New York-based activist group U.S. Day of Rage.
In March, three of the plaintiffs testified that the possibility of government repression under the NDAA made them reconsider how they approached their journalism and activism.
Forrest writes: “This court is acutely aware that preliminarily enjoining an act of Congress must be done with great caution. However, it is the responsibility of our judicial system to protect the public from acts of Congress which infringe upon constitutional rights. As set forth above, this court has found that plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on the merits regarding their constitutional claim and it therefore has a responsibility to insure that the public’s constitutional rights are protected.”
The U.S. Attorney’s office reportedly declined to comment on the injunction.
The NDAA and amendments to the bill that would do away with the indefinite detention provision have been considered in the House this week; the schedule calls for last votes no later than 3 p.m. today.