In case you missed it, federal U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest ruled on Wednesday that controversial ‘indefinite detention’ provisions contained in the National Defense Authorization Act signed into law last December likely violate the 1st and 5th amendment constitutional rights afforded to citizens. The decision came as a lawsuit brought by seven journalist and activist plaintiffs — including Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, and Noam Chomsky — challenged the NDAA on those grounds. Citing vagueness in language, the judge ruled in their favor, saying that the provisions could have a “chilling impact on First amendment rights.”
She went on to conclude that “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.” This was exactly the argument of journalists like Hedges who hailed the preliminary injunction as “a tremendous step forward for the restoration of due process and the rule of law” when speaking to the Associated Press. The news agency went on to report:
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.”
The development this week was a significant boost to the integrity of civil liberties. The government refused on numerous occasions to say that the bill would not impede upon 1st amendment activities. Though congressional bipartisan support and the signature of a former constitutional scholar turned President brought the nation to this moment, a conservative coalition joined leftists like Hedges and Chomsky in opposing the unconstitutional NDAA provisions.
Establishment conservatives and liberals were feckless, or worse, outright spinsters and apologists on behalf of it all. Thankfully, unlike them, Judge Forrest exhibited courage and conviction in her ruling this week.