Hedges v. Obama

BY T.J. GREEN — Last week, a federal judge granted the permanent injunction of a controversial U.S. law that opponents claim allows for the indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens for activities including, news reporting and political activism.

The ruling blocks the U.S. government from enforcing Section 1021 of the “Homeland Battlefield” provision in the National Defense Authorization Act.

The law, signed by President Barack Obama last December, authorizes the military to detain any person, including U.S. citizens, “who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States” and hold them without trial.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest declared the law unconstitutional for being too broad and overly vague, and lacking the necessary protection required for due process. In her ruling, she explained that when repeatedly pressed by the Court to define the phrase “substantially support,” the government was unable to do so.

Judge Forrest ruled that the statute violates rights guaranteed by the First, Fifth, and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

“The due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment require that an individual understand what conduct might subject him or her to criminal or civil penalties. Here, the stakes get no higher: indefinite military detention–potential detention during a war on terrorism that is not expected to end in the foreseeable future, if ever,” She wrote.

The case stems from a January lawsuit filed by a group of writers, journalists, and activists, including former New York Times war correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges. The group members feared that writing and advocacy would subject them to indefinite military detention.

After Judge Forrest’s ruling, the Federal Prosecutors in Manhattan, called the opinion “unprecedented,” and said it was an “extraordinary injunction of worldwide scope.”

The Obama administration is challenging the ruling in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If upheld the case could quickly come before the Supreme Court of the United States.

The government contends that the law “explicitly affirms the President’s detention authority under the earlier Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which was passed by Congress in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001. The AUMF constitutes the President’s central legislative authority for the ongoing military operations against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces.”
Shortly after the judge’s ruling, the Obama administration asked prosecutors for an immediate stay of the permanent injunction. The administration argued Judge Forrest’s ruling jeopardized its existing authority to hold current wartime prisoners.

Last week a federal appeals court judge in New York granted the emergency stay and a hearing on the matter is scheduled for Sept. 28.

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