US District Judge Katherine Forrest has issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the enforcement of the portions of the National Defense Authorization Act 2012 (NDAA) that relate to open-ended military detention of “suspects,” rejecting the Obama Administration’s arguments that the eight plaintiffs in the case, including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, did not have standing to contest such detention practices.
Judge Forrest ruled that Chomsky, Ellsberg and the others had “reasonable” reason to believe that the NDAA could be used to have them captured and transferred into military custody by virtue of their antiwar stances and opposition to the administration’s policies. She also ruled that the NDAA’s standards were too vague and overly broad compared to the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Military Force, which restricted such detentions purely to those directly involved in planning or carrying out 9/11.
Forrest went on to say that the NDAA likely violated both the First and Fifth Amendments, in that it prohibited certain types of freedom of association and denies captives any due process in US courts, and said that the law had already done concrete damage to the abilities of the plaintiffs to do their jobs.
The NDAA has been hugely controversial, and public backlash has convinced members of Congress to try to alter the law. Yesterday, a number of top Bush Administration officials argued that any attempt to prohibit detention without charges would also be “unconstitutional” in that it would deny the president absolute and unquestionable power as commander in chief. Needless to say, today’s ruling does serious damage to that line of argument.