Indefinite detention of Americans blocked by court
Federal judge blocks National Defense Authorization Act provision
By Dean Kuipers
Los Angeles Times
May 18, 2012
In a stunning turnaround for an act of Congress, a judge ruled Wednesday that a counterterrorism provision of the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual defense appropriations bill, is unconstitutional. Federal district Judge Katherine B. Forrest issued an injunction against use of the provision on behalf of a group of journalists and activists who had filed suit in March, claiming it would chill free speech.
In her decision published Wednesday, Forrest, in the Southern District of New York, ruled that Section 1021 of NDAA was facially unconstitutional — a rare finding — because of the potential that it could violate the 1st Amendment.
“Plaintiffs have stated a more than plausible claim that the statute inappropriately encroaches on their rights under the First Amendment,” she wrote, addressing the constitutional challenge.
Seven individuals, including Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times foreign correspondent Chris Hedges, MIT linguist Noam Chomsky and “Pentagon Papers” activist Daniel Ellsberg, had sued President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and a host of other government officials, stating they were forced to curtail some of their reporting and activist activities for fear of violating Section 1021. That section prohibits providing substantial support for terrorist groups, but gives little definition of what that means. Environmental activists were also poised to join the suit if it expanded.
Judge Forrest also found that the language of Section 1021 was too vague, meaning it was too hard to know when one may or may not be subject to detention.
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