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Federal Judge Rules Obama’s NDAA Unconstitutional, Judge Clarifies Obama Inquiry

Federal Judge Rules Obama’s NDAA Unconstitutional, Judge Clarifies Obama Inquiry

The indefinite detention of American citizens without charge, a particularly contentious provision of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge this week. Responding to an inquiry made by the Obama administration, Judge Katherine B. Forrest upheld the May 16 ruling, stating that no American citizens could held without charge.

Indefinite detention without charge has been used extensively against suspected terrorists and enemy combatants from other countries. Although the practice continues to be used against non-Americans, the NDAA provision would have nullified constitutional due process rights of Americans suspected of terrorism.

NDAA, Gitmo comes to America
Earlier this year, prominent journalists and academics launched a lawsuit to challenge the legality of the section 1021 of the 2012 NDAA, a provision which would permit the military to detain anyone it suspects “substantially supports” al-Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces. Among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were Chris Hedges, Naomi Wolf, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg and Birgitta Jonsdottir.

Seeking to clarify the judgement, the Obama administration claimed that Judge Forrest’s ruling applied only to those few plaintiffs named in the suit and not to the entire American population. In response to the president’s inquiry, Forrest wrote in a June 6 memo, “Put more bluntly, the May 16 order enjoined enforcement of Section 1021(b)(2) against anyone until further action by this, or a higher, court — or by Congress. This order should eliminate any doubt as to the May 16 order’s scope.”

After signing the NDAA into law December of last year, the lawsuit was launched with the funding and support of help of civil rights activists. According to the Stop NDAA’s website, one of the main activist groups challenging the legality of the NDAA provision:

“In a nation where the definition of ‘terrorist’ appears to be ever-expanding, and where a series of laws passed since 9/11 have severely undermined Constitutional protections, the NDAA has gone too far. Key provisions in this law contain language that is so broad and vague, we believe it leaves many people, including journalists, war correspondents, outspoken activists, Occupy supporters, Tea Party members and others in imminent danger of harm as of March 1.”

American citizens are protected under the Constitution, which provides citizens the “right to due process,” a clause found in both the 5th and 14th amendments. Both amendments state succinctly, “[N]or shall any person be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

Due process has historically been interpreted to include the right to legal representation and a speedy trial. Most importantly, Americans must be formally charged with a crime in order to be tried in court. If upheld, the NDAA would have reversed the right to due process, granting broad military authority to detain U.S. citizens without charge.

“Free Press” not so free
Additionally, the NDAA provision that was struck down would have impeded the work of journalists, many of whom interview known terrorists, criminals and combatants as a necessary part of war reporting. Naomi Wolf, a colleague of Chris Hedges and prominent journalist, describes her support for the legal challenge in a March 28 Guardian newspaper article, “The Reason I’m Helping Chris Hedges’ Lawsuit Against the NDAA,” writing:

“I have discussed the terms of the Homeland Battlefield Bill – also known as the National Defense Authorization Act – with numerous other journalists, writers, and members of democracy-supporting organizations across the political spectrum, from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee to the Tenth Amendment Center. I have also discussed the bill with various political leaders, including city council members and legislators, who span the political spectrum in the United States. They all agree that the bill can potentially affect an American journalist who meets with and publishes reports on individuals connected to organizations deemed terrorist by the United States government.”

Wolf of course draws the important distinction saying that she does not in any way support terrorism, but believes that reporting on these issues is an important, necessary function of a free press. This type of reporting, as most would agree is necessary, provides Americans with information on critical issues affecting national security and foreign policy.

source: MPN


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