The Obama administration has won the latest battle in their fight to indefinitely detain US citizens and foreigners suspected of being affiliated with terrorists under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.
Congress granted the president the authority to arrest and hold individuals accused of terrorism without due process under the NDAA, but Mr. Obama said in an accompanying signing statement that he will not abuse these privileges to keep American citizens imprisoned indefinitely. These assurances, however, were not enough to keep a group of journalists and human rights activists from filing a federal lawsuit last year, which contested the constitutionality of Section 1021, the particular provision that provides for such broad power.
A federal judge sided with the plaintiffs originally by granting an injunction against Section 1021, prompting the Obama administration to request an appeal last year. On Wednesday this week, an appeals court in New York ruled in favor of the government and once again allowed the White House to legally indefinitely detain persons that fit in the category of enemy combatants or merely provide them with support.
Now with this week’s appellate decision, plaintiffs intend on taking their case to the Supreme Court. Should the high court agree to hear their argument, the top justices in the US may finally weigh in on the controversial counterterrorism law.
The so-called “indefinite detention” provision of last year’s National Defense Authorization Act has been at the center of debate since before President Barack Obama autographed the bill in December 2011, but a federal lawsuit filed by Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Chris Hedges and others only two weeks after it went into effect remains as relevant as ever in light of a decision delivered Wednesday by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
The plaintiffs in case had previously been successful in convincing a federal district judge to keep Section 1021 from being put on the books, but the latest ruling negates an earlier injunction and once again reestablished the government’s right to indefinitely detain people under the NDAA.
Tangerine Bolen, a co-plaintiff in the case alongside Hedges, told RT, “Losing one battle is not losing the war. This war is an assault on truth itself. It flaunts reason, sanity and basic decency. We will not stand down in the face of these egregious assaults on our rights and liberties.”
In a statement published to TruthDig, Hedges called the ruling “distressing” and said, “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.”
Section 1021 of the NDAA reads in part that the president of the US can indefinitely imprison any person who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces engaged in hostilities against the US or its coalition partners, as well as anyone who commits a “belligerent act” against the US under the law of war, “without trial, until the end of the hostilities.” The power to do as much was allegedly granted to the commander-in-chief after the Authorization to Use Military Force was signed into law shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but a team of plaintiffs have argued that Section 1021 provides the White House with broad, sweeping powers that put the First Amendment-guaranteed rights to free speech and assembly at risk while also opening the door for the unlawful prosecution of anyone who can be linked to an enemy of the state.