A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Wednesday blocked [opinion, PDF] a portion of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) [text, PDF] which allows for the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists, finding that it violates the First Amendment [text]. Section 1021 of the NDAA affirms the authority of the president under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to detain indefinitely any "person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces." A group of seven individuals and one organization challenged the law claiming it would stifle journalists' free speech and association rights. The government countered that the section is merely an affirmation of the AUMF and does nothing new. Judge Katherine Forrest disagreed, finding the statute too vague:
[T]he statute at issue places the public at undue risk of having their speech chilled for the purported protection from al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and "associated forces"i.e., "foreign terrorist organizations." The vagueness of § 1021 does not allow the average citizen, or even the Government itself, to understand with the type of definiteness to which our citizens are entitled, or what conduct comes within its scope.Forrest issued a preliminary injunction against the section's enforcement. A lawyer for the plaintiffs has urged the Obama administration to abandon its decision to enforce the law [AP report].
Obama signed the NDAA into law [JURIST report] on December 31, 2011. Upon signing, he noted [statement], "I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation." Both houses of Congress reached an agreement [JURIST report] on the language of the NDAA's most controversial sections in mid-December.