Win one, lose one in civil liberties

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed last year expanded the authority of the President to indefinitely detain anyone who ‘supports’ terrorism. A few days ago, a judge declared part of it unconstitutional:

A federal district judge today, the newly-appointed Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York, issued an amazing ruling: one which preliminarily enjoins enforcement of the highly controversial indefinite provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act, enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last December. This afternoon’s ruling came as part of a lawsuit brought by seven dissident plaintiffs — including Chris Hedges, Dan Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, and Birgitta Jonsdottir — alleging that the NDAA violates ”both their free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment as well as due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

Significantly, the court here repeatedly told the DOJ that it could preclude standing for the plaintiffs if they were willing to state clearly that none of the journalistic and free speech conduct that the plaintiffs engage in could subject them to indefinite detention. But the Government refused to make any such representation. Thus, concluded the court, “plaintiffs have stated a more than plausible claim that the statute inappropriately encroaches on their rights under the First Amendment.”

It’s pretty amazing that the court had to rule that people arrested in the US have a right to a trial, but it’s nice that they did.

On the other hand (via here), most Republicans in the US House think that constitional right is bad for the US:

In two votes Friday morning, the House backed the president’s powers to indefinitely detain terror suspects captured on U.S. soil.

Lawmakers rejected an amendment that would have barred military detention for terror suspects captured in the United States on a 182-231 vote, beating back the proposal from a coalition of liberal Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans led by Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.).

supporters of indefinite detention suggested that the Smith-Amash amendment would incentivize terrorists to come to the United States, because they would receive more rights on U.S. soil than outside the country.

Gohmert suggested at one point that terrorists “supported”Smith’s amendment.

“We cannot look to guarantee those who seek to harm the U.S. the constitutional rights granted to Americans,” said Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.).“If we extend that to them, this war on terror, now it’s a criminal action.”

Yes, Allen, it would be a criminal action as the Constitution says it should be.

I should note that one of the sponsors of the amendment was a Republican (Justin Amash), but only 18 other Republicans voted for it (including Ron Paul) while 163 out of the 190 Democrats voted for it.

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