Charlie Savage of the New York Times reports today: “A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the government from enforcing a controversial statute about the indefinite detention without trial of terrorism suspects. Congress enacted the measure last year as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.
“The ruling came as the House voted to extend for five years a different statute, the FISA Amendments Act, that expanded the government’s power to conduct surveillance without warrants. Together, the developments made clear that the debate over the balance between national security and civil liberties is still unfolding 11 years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.”
MARJORIE COHN, [email] Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, Cohn is also the author of The United States and Torture. She said today: “Just as the House voted to extend the FISA Amendments Act, that strengthens the government’s ability to spy on us, a federal judge permanently blocked enforcement of the section of the National Defense Authorization Act that permits indefinite detention. The Obama administration has followed the Bush practice of indefinitely detaining terrorism suspects without charges. But the NDAA expands the group to include not just those who perpetrated the September 11 attacks, but also anyone who is part of, or substantially supports, Al Qaeda, the Taliban or other forces engaged in hostilities against the United States or its allies. Judge Katherine B. Forrest ruled that the provision is ‘unconstitutionally overbroad’ because it ‘purports to encompass protected First Amendment activities,’ and it also violates the Fifth Amendment. This is an example of the judicial branch fulfilling its constitutional duty to check and balance overreaching by the other branches of government.”
SHAHID BUTTAR, [email] Buttar is executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. He said today: “Judge Forrest’s decision enjoining the NDAA’s detention provisions is a rare example of our system of checks & balances actually working. Other courts should heed this important example and, like Judge Forrest, do their jobs and closely scrutinize overreaching laws and executive abuses to defend constitutional rights.
“The House vote to approve a five-year extension of FISA is the latest reflection of congressional dysfunction — not due to partisan gridlock, but because both major parties march in lockstep to expand the executive and degrade the Constitution that every member of Congress swore an oath to defend. With President Obama committed to extending the Bush-Cheney model of dragnet domestic spying, the Senate remains America’s last line of defense against entrenching pervasive surveillance even beyond the next administration.”