[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] heard arguments on Wednesday in a case challenging the US’ authority to detain suspected terrorists indefintely. The law would allow authorities to detain certain suspects indefinitely if they are found to have aided al Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces.” Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) [text, PDF] 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.” Opponents of the law argue [Reuters report] it would potentially stifle journalists’ freedom of speech, an argument supported by the lower court. Lawyers for the government claim that striking down the law would pose a threat to national security and are quick to point out that no journalists have been held under the law in the 10 years since it was passed.
Controversy surrounding this provision has escalated since it was originally struck down [JURIST report] by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] last September. In December Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg denied a request to block the law after challengers of the law appealed [JURIST reports] to the Supreme Court to block its enforcement. The district court’s order striking down the law was stayed [JURIST report] by the Second Circuit just after the district’s ruling in September. The Second Circuit then extended [JURIST report] the stay until it could officially rule on the issue.