News / USA

Journalists Prepare US Supreme Court Fight Against Indefinite Detention

FILE - Occupy Wall Street activist Lauren Digioia is detained by police during a demonstration against the National Defense Authorization Act in New York's Grand Central Station, Jan. 3, 2012.
FILE - Occupy Wall Street activist Lauren Digioia is detained by police during a demonstration against the National Defense Authorization Act in New York's Grand Central Station, Jan. 3, 2012.
A group of journalists and activists are preparing to challenge a U.S. court decision upholding the Obama administration’s ability to indefinitely detain individuals. The ruling, plaintiffs say, deals a blow to civil liberties in the name of national security, and could even be used to detain U.S. citizens without due process.

An appeals court in New York this week ruled the plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found the law “says nothing at all about the President’s authority to detain American citizens,” as argued by the plaintiffs. It also said the non-citizen plaintiffs “failed to establish standing because they have not shown a sufficient threat that the government will detain them under Section 1021.”

Wednesday’s decision hands a victory to the U.S. government, upholding its ability to indefinitely detain people considered enemy combatants, or individuals considered to have provided support to them.

Guilt by association?

The ruling struck down a district court injunction that had sided with the plaintiffs, who contend Section 1021 is a significant expansion of the president's military detention authority. The plaintiffs, many of whom have interviewed militants and terrorist suspects, say they fear "the government may construe their work as having substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces."

The plaintiff’s attorney, Bruce Afran, said Friday he will be filing an appeal to the Supreme Court.

“I am troubled by this decision as part of a series of court decisions in which the courts are refusing to take on civil liberties abuses and overreach by the federal government,” Afran said.

The plaintiffs say the wording of the NDAA is conveniently vague, so that it could be interpreted to include U.S. citizens or not. Afran added it seems impossible his clients “don’t have an objective fear that the law could be used against them.”

“My clients are not extremists. They’re writers and journalists who’ve had contacts with these groups to understand who they are,” he said.

Among the plaintiffs are journalist Christopher Hedges, Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, RevolutionTruth founder Jennifer "Tangerine" Bolen, writer and activist Noam Chomsky, journalist Alexa O’Brien, activist Kai Wargalla and Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir.

When Hedges, a war correspondent who has interviewed members of al-Qaida and the Taliban, first filed his lawsuit in January 2012, he suggested Section 1021 of the NDAA could have a chilling effect on the First Amendment, which protects free speech and freedom of the press.

The Pulitzer Prize winner reacted to the Appeals Court decision with disdain.

“It means there is no recourse now either within the executive, legislative or judicial branches of government to halt the steady assault on our civil liberties and most basic Constitutional rights,” Hedges said in a statement to TruthDig, where he is a columnist.

He suggested the NDAA has helped blur the lines between domestic policing and military counter-terrorism operations.

“It means that the state can use the military, overturning over two centuries of domestic law, to use troops on the streets to seize U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers,” he wrote.

Liberty vs law enforcement

Katherine Forrest, the U.S. district judge who originally sided with the plaintiffs, addressed the balance between liberty and law enforcement in her September 12, 2012 ruling.

“Does the public have a greater interest in preservation of its First Amendment and due process rights that are infringed by [section 1021 of the NDAA], or in having the statute potentially available for use by law enforcement authorities?” she asked.

Forrest blocked the implementation of the act on indefinite detention, saying the public has a “strong and undoubted interest in the clear preservation of First and Fifth Amendment rights.”

The Fifth Amendment protects against the abuse of government authority and upholds a person’s right to the due process of law.

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. passed a series of laws to give law enforcement agencies greater ability to gather intelligence on, and take action against, alleged terrorist threats. The National Defense Authorization Act, which outlines the Defense Department budget and spending plan, is part of that effort.

President Barack Obama signed the act in 2012, he said, “with serious reservations” about provisions related to the treatment of terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay. At the signing, he also addressed concerns about the treatment of U.S. citizens.

“My Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation,” he said. “My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.”

The U.S. government has not said whether it has held any U.S. citizen under section 1021 of the NDAA.

Read the full court document:

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs