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Federal Judge Permanently Blocks Key Component of the National Defense Authorization Act

New York, NY – A federal judge permanently disallowed a key component of the National Defense Authorization Act this Thursday as part of a lawsuit brought by journalist Chris Hedges and others who said they could be held in indefinite military detention because they interviewed suspected terrorists.

The suit against President Obama was filed last January by the Pulitzer winning journalist, challenging the Authorization for Use of Military Force provision that authorized military detention for people deemed to have “substantially supported” al Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces”.

Charlie Savage of The New York Times reporting on the case wrote, “”Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a permanent injunction barring the government from relying on the defense authorization law to hold people in indefinite military detention on suspicion that they “substantially supported” Al Qaeda or its allies — at least if they had no connection to the Sept. 11 attacks.”

Savage said the injunction coincides with a U.S. House vote to extend parts of another federal law that allows warrentless wiretapsfor five years. Taken together, he said, the actions show how the domestic debate on anti-terror policies is far from settled. Writing about the court order, Savage said:

“The new statute went beyond covering the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks to also cover people who were part of or substantially supported Al Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces engaged in hostilities against the United States or its allies. Its enactment was controversial in part because lawmakers did not specify what conduct could lead to someone’s being detained, and because it was silent about whether the statute extended to American citizens and others arrested on United States soil.

“It was challenged by Chris Hedges, a journalist who interacts with terrorists as part of his reporting, and by several prominent supporters of WikiLeaks. They argued that its existence chilled their constitutional rights by creating a basis to fear that the government might seek to detain them under it by declaring that their activities made them supporters of an enemy group.”

Hedges called the president’s action allowing indefinite detention, unforgivable, unconstitutional and exceedingly dangerous.” He asked,  “Why do U.S. citizens now need to be specifically singled out for military detention and denial of due process when under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force the president can apparently find the legal cover to serve as judge, jury and executioner to assassinate U.S. citizens.”

In May, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest ruled in favor of a temporary injunction blocking enforcement of the authorization for military detention. Her 112-opinion ruling yesterday turned the temporary injunction into a permanent one.

Hedges says the real irony of the provision that was struck down is the fact it has almost unilateral support on both sides of the aisle in Congress but was never requested by the agencies assigned to enforce it:

The oddest part of this legislation is that the FBI, the CIA, the director of national intelligence, the Pentagon and the attorney general didn’t support it. FBI Director Robert Mueller said he feared the bill would actually impede the bureau’s ability to investigate terrorism because it would be harder to win cooperation from suspects held by the military. “The possibility looms that we will lose opportunities to obtain cooperation from the persons in the past that we’ve been fairly successful in gaining,” he told Congress.

Hedges believes, like many, the so-called “war on terror” has morphed into something that has little to do with external threats to our nation’s security.

This demented “war on terror” is as undefined and vague as such a conflict is in any totalitarian state. Dissent is increasingly equated in this country with treason. Enemies supposedly lurk in every organization that does not chant the patriotic mantras provided to it by the state. And this bill feeds a mounting state paranoia. It expands our permanent war to every spot on the globe. It erases fundamental constitutional liberties. It means we can no longer use the word “democracy” to describe our political system.

Why do U.S. citizens now need to be specifically singled out for military detention and denial of due process when under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force the president can apparently find the legal cover to serve as judge, jury and executioner to assassinate U.S. citizens, as he did in the killing of the cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen? Why is this bill necessary when the government routinely ignores our Fifth Amendment rights—“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”—as well as our First Amendment right of free speech? How much more power do they need to fight “terrorism”?

Fear is the psychological weapon of choice for totalitarian systems of power. Make the people afraid. Get them to surrender their rights in the name of national security. And then finish off the few who aren’t afraid enough. If this law is not revoked we will be no different from any sordid military dictatorship. Its implementation will be a huge leap forward for the corporate oligarchs who plan to continue to plunder the nation and use state and military security to cow the population into submission.

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