Thursday, May 17, 2012

Indefinite military detention without trial struck down by NY court

New York federal district judge Katherine Forrest yesterday struck down a provision in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Bill, signed into law by President Obama on New Year's Eve of last year, that would allow the US military to indefinitely detain anyone, without charge or trial, indefinitely.
The lawsuit was brought against President Barack Obama and other government officials by seven journalists and activists including Christopher Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, Jennifer Bolen, Alexa O'Brien, Kai Warg All, and Hon. Brigitta Jonsdottier, M.P., as well as US Day of Rage. The plaintiffs charged that the law was already having chilling effect on free speech by exposing them to the risk of imprionment without trial. The judge ruled that the legislation indeed violates both the first (right to free speech and association) and the fifth (right to due process) amendments to the Constitution.

Columnist Glenn Greenwald, a steadfast critic of post 9/11 federal courts, almost immediately lauded the decision, calling it "extraordinary and encouraging." Greenwald has consistently criticized the President's signing of NDAA, but said that he had not covered the lawsuit in his writings, saying frankly that he hadn't expected it to succeed. Other critics of the legislation have included Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar (retired four-star Marine generals), Jonathan Turley (professor of law at George Washinton University), the ACLU, and Human Rights Watch.

This is an amazing victory. However, despite Greenwald's enthusiastic support of the decision, the constitutional lawyer was careful to note that "this is only a preliminary injunction (though the court made it clear that she believes plaintiffs will ultimately prevail). It will certainly be appealed and can be reversed. There are still other authorities (including the AUMF) which the DOJ can use to assert the power of indefinite detention."

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