News / USA

NY Appeals Court Hears Arguments in Indefinite Detention Law Challenge

Carolyn Weaver
A New York appeals court Wednesday heard arguments in a lawsuit challenging the U.S. government's power to indefinitely detain anyone it believes is a terrorist, or who supports terrorists. Plaintiffs say a provision in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act gives the U.S. military sweeping powers, even inside the United States. The Obama administration says the law does no such thing.

The legal battle played out in a New York federal appeals court is about one passage in the legislation: It says the U.S. military may indefinitely detain anyone it accuses of “substantial support” to terrorist or associated forces.

A group of plaintiffs, including former New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, challenged the provision as unconstitutional last year, saying it infringes on their First Amendment right to meet with others and speak and write freely - and on their Fifth Amendment right to due process in a court of law. 

Hedges says it gives the U.S. military unprecedented power “...to allow the military onto our streets, to seize American citizens, strip them of due process, put them in military facilities, including our offshore penal colonies, and hold them indefinitely,” Hedges said.

One of the plaintiffs' attorneys, Bruce Afran, said that someone who sends money to support the legal defense of Guantanamo inmates, for example, or who provides help such a hosting a website for them, could be arrested and detained.

“It is an attempt by the executive branch to take on vast detention authority, not akin to a democracy, but like most of the dictatorships we’ve had the misfortune to know over the last century. The framers of the Constitution were very clear to make certain of two things: one, that the military is always commanded by civilians, and two, that the military will never have authority over civilians,” Afran said.

U.S. District Court judge Katherine Forrest, an Obama appointee, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and against the Obama administration last year, leading to Wednesday's appeals court hearing.

In its brief, the administration contends that the plaintiffs are misreading the law and have no legal right to bring this suit against the government because their rights are not infringed.  Brookings Institution legal scholar Benjamin Wittes says his reading of the briefs indicates the government is correct.

“I have no doubt that an abusive government could make mischief with this statute.  That is not the assumption, that we go into a litigation over whether a statute is constitutional or not. 
You don’t say, ‘What’s the worst possible thing?’  You generally ask the question: ‘What’s the sort of normal application?’  And the normal application of this law is the detention of people who are actually associated with - in a meaningful, very direct sense - the enemy in a war, which there’s very little controversy over, the idea that those people are detainable,” Wittes said.

Wittes said he expects that Judge Forrest’s decision will be overturned shortly by the appeals court panel.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Thai Law Forum from: Bangkok, Thailand
February 13, 2013 2:33 AM
It's quite interesting how news regarding the NDAA and this case so seldomly enters mainstream media. Chris Hedges, always offering thought-provoking journalism, has a case here that needs more public attention. What do we do? We can write about it; we can raise awareness. http://www.thailawforum.com/blog/chris-hedges-ndaa-back-in-court

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More