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PORTSIDE  May 2012, Week 3

PORTSIDE May 2012, Week 3

Subject:

Judge Rules NDAA Unconstitutional

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Thu, 17 May 2012 22:37:02 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (125 lines)

Judge Rules NDAA Unconstitutional

by Larry Neumeister, Associated Press

Reader Supported News (RSN)
May 17, 2012

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/11475-focus-judge-rules-ndaa-unconstitutional

A judge on Wednesday struck down a portion of a law giving
the government wide powers to regulate the detention,
interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists,
saying it left journalists, scholars and political activists
facing the prospect of indefinite detention for exercising
First Amendment rights.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan said in a
written ruling that a single page of the law has a "chilling
impact on First Amendment rights." She cited testimony by
journalists that they feared their association with certain
individuals overseas could result in their arrest because a
provision of the law subjects to indefinite detention anyone
who "substantially" or "directly" provides "support" to
forces such as al-Qaida or the Taliban. She said the wording
was too vague and encouraged Congress to change it.

"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 said.

She said the law also gave the government authority to move
against individuals who engage in political speech with
views that "may be extreme and unpopular as measured against
views of an average individual.

"That, however, is precisely what the First Amendment
protects," Forrest wrote.

She called the fears of journalists in particular real and
reasonable, citing testimony at a March hearing by Pulitzer
Prize-winning journalist Christopher Hedges, who has
interviewed al-Qaida members, conversed with members of the
Taliban during speaking engagements overseas and reported on
17 groups named on a list prepared by the State Department
of known terrorist organizations. He testified that the law
has led him to consider altering speeches where members of
al-Qaida or the Taliban might be present.

Hedges called Forrest's ruling "a tremendous step forward
for the restoration of due process and the rule of law."

He said: "Ever since the law has come out, and because the
law is so amorphous, the problem is you're not sure what you
can say, what you can do and what context you can have."

Hedges was among seven individuals and one organization that
challenged the law with a January lawsuit. The National
Defense Authorization Act was signed into law in December,
allowing for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens
suspected of terrorism. Wednesday's ruling does not affect
another part of the law that enables the United States to
indefinitely detain members of terrorist organizations, and
the judge said the government has other legal authority it
can use to detain those who support terrorists.

A message left Wednesday with a spokeswoman for government
lawyers was not immediately returned.

Bruce Afran, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, called the ruling
a "great victory for free speech."

"She's held that the government cannot subject people to
indefinite imprisonment for engaging in speech, journalism
or advocacy, regardless of how unpopular those ideas might
be to some people," he said.

Attorney Carl Mayer, speaking for plaintiffs at oral
arguments earlier this year, had noted that even President
Barack Obama expressed reservations about certain aspects of
the bill when he signed it into law.

After the ruling, Mayer called on the Obama administration
to drop its decision to enforce the law. He also called on
Congress to change it "to make it the law of the land that
U.S. citizens are entitled to trial by jury. They are not
subject to military detention, policing and tribunals, all
the things we fought a revolution to make sure would never
happen in this land."

The government had argued that the law did not change the
practices of the United States since the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks and that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing
to sue.

In March, the judge seemed sympathetic to the government's
arguments until she asked a government attorney if he could
assure the plaintiffs that they would not face detention
under the law for their work.

She wrote Wednesday that the failure of the government to
make such a representation required her to assume that
government takes the position that the law covers "a wide
swath of expressive and associational conduct."

==========

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