Civil Liberties Victory: Judge Halts Indefinite Detention Law

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Common Dreams

Civil Liberties Victory: Judge Halts Indefinite Detention Law

Judge: "First Amendment rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and cannot be legislated away"

Common Dreams staff

(photo: Lauriel-Arwen via Flickr)

A federal judge struck down a law that allows indefinite detention as a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Wednesday.

As Democracy Now! summarizes the ruling,

Judge Katherine Forrest issued a preliminary injunction against the provision in the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, earlier this year. On Wednesday, Judge Forrest made her ruling permanent, declaring that the NDAA cannot be used to hold people in indefinite military detention on suspicion of having "substantially supported" al-Qaeda or its allies. The decision marked a major victory for the group of journalists, scholars and political activists who had brought the case, arguing the provision was so broad it could easily infringe on freedom of speech.

"First Amendment rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and cannot be legislated away," Forrest wrote in the ruling. "This Court rejects the Government's suggestion that American citizens can be placed in military detention indefinitely, for acts they could not predict might subject them to detention."

"In short, the Court can find no authority in domestic law or the law of war, nor can the government point to any, to justify the concept of 'support' as a valid ground for detention," Forrest wrote.

Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, praised the ruling and stated that "Judge Forrest’s decision enjoining the NDAA’s detention provisions is a rare example of our system of checks & balances actually working. Other courts should heed this important example and, like Judge Forrest, do their jobs and closely scrutinize overreaching laws and executive abuses to defend constitutional rights."

The lawsuit had been brought by seven plaintiffs — Chris Hedges, Dan Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, Birgitta Jonsdottir, Alexa O’Brien, Kai Wargall, and Jennifer Bolen — alleging that the NDAA violates ”both their free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment as well as due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

Hedges spoke with The Village Voice about the new ruling and said he was "elated."

"I'm elated," he told the Voice. "This judge is amazing. She had the courage to do the right thing in an age when most judges write long opinions about why they can't do the right thing."

"If they appeal, we'll fight them, and we'll keep fighting them, and we'll fight them until we win," said Hedges.


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