A federal judge in New York on Wednesday ruled in favor of a group of civilian activists and journalists and struck down highly controversial ‘indefinite detention’ and ‘material support’ provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act, enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last December. In their suit, the plaintiffs stated they could be detained ‘indefinitely’ for their constitutionally protected activities. Citing the ‘vagueness’ of certain language in the bill, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest — who was appointed to the court by Obama — agreed, and said the law could have “chilling impact on First Amendment rights” for journalists, activists, and potentially all US citizens.
“An individual could run the risk of substantially supporting or directly supporting an ‘associated force’ without even being aware that he or she was doing so,” the judge said.
The ruling came as part of a lawsuit 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.”
Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, who has written critically and extensively of the NDAA, called the ruling “a sweeping victory for the plaintiffs.”
“This is an extraordinary and encouraging decision,” Greenwald continues, though he noted that many caveats still must be applied. “This is only a preliminary injunction (though the judge 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. Nonetheless, this is a rare and significant limit placed on the U.S. Government’s ability to seize ever-greater powers of detention-without-charges, and it is grounded in exactly the right constitutional principles: ones that federal courts and the Executive Branch have been willfully ignoring for the past decade.”