NDAA on trial: White House refuses to abide with ban against indefinite detention of Americans
Attorneys for the White House have been in-and-out of court in Manhattan this week to argue that the indefinite detention provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, or NDAA, are necessary for the safety and security of the nation. When President Barack Obama signed the bill on December 31, he granted the government the power to put any American away in jail over even suspected terrorist ties, but federal court Judge Katherine Forrest ruled in May that this particular part of the NDAA, Section 1021, failed to “pass constitutional muster” and ordered a temporary injunction.
On Monday, White House attorneys asked for an appeal for that injunction so that they’d be once more legally permitted to indefinitely detain anyone over mere accusations. When specifically asked to answer whether or not they’ve adhered by Judge Forrest’s injunction so far, though, administration attorneys refused to cooperate with the questioning.
Activist and reporter Tangerine Bolen is a plaintiff in the case against the NDAA, and in an op-ed published Thursday in the Daily Cloudt, she writes that the federal attorneys asking for an appeal have declined to reveal whether or not they’ve cooperated with the judge’s May 2012 injunction. If the government has arrested anyone over alleged “belligerent ties” since Judge Forrest ordered a temporary stay, the government could be in contempt of court.
“Obama's attorneys refused to assure the court, when questioned, that the NDAA's section 1021 – the provision that permits reporters and others who have not committed crimes to be detained without trial – has not been applied by the US government anywhere in the world after Judge Forrest's injunction,” Tangerine tells Daily Cloudt. “In other words, they were telling a US federal judge that they could not, or would not, state whether Obama's government had complied with the legal injunction that she had laid down before them.”
In its original form, the NDAA allows the military hold anyone accused of having "substantially supported" al-Qaeda, the Taliban or "associated forces" until "the end of hostilities” and indefinitely imprison anyone who commits a “belligerent act” against the United States, yet fails to explicitly define what is constituted as such. In her injunction, Judge Forrest said, "In the face of what could be indeterminate military detention, due process requires more.”
"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 ruled.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges is also a plaintiff in the case and along with Tangerine warns that his own investigative work could be construed by the government to put him away in prison for life.
“I have had dinner more times than I can count with people whom this country brands as terrorists,” Hedges wrote earlier this year, “but that does not make me one.”
Carl Mayer, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case, told RT that he expected the White House to appeal the judge’s injunction, but that he considered it a lost cause.
"[W]e are suggesting that it may not be in their best interest because there are so many people from all sides of the political spectrum opposed to this law that they ought to just say, 'We're not going to appeal,’” Mayer said.
Mayer stated that, because of the injunction, "The NDAA cannot be used to pick up Americans in a proverbial black van or in any other way that the administration might decide to try to get people into the military justice system. It means that the government is foreclosed now from engaging in this type of action against the civil liberties of Americans." Now, however, the White House wants the power to be once more restored.
Outside of federal court on Thursday, Hedges appeared pleased, Courthouse News reports.
“It didn't appear to me by the end that [the government] had any argument to stand on," Hedges said. "The judge eviscerated them."
Even with the injunction still standing, though, the government has yet to admit if it’s adhering to Judge Forrest’s ruling.