Imprisonment without trial remains unconstitutional — for now
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the U.S. can’t indefinitely detain terrorism suspects without giving them the due process guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
In her decision, U.S. District Court Judge Katherine Forrest issued a permanent injunction agaisnt the so-called “indefinite detention” provision of the 2012 Defense spending bill. The provision would have enabled the military to indefinitely detain civilians — even Americans — without charge or trial if they are accused of certain crimes, or even associated with certain criminals.
The indefinite detention provision was criticized by civil rights advocates who characterized the law as an erosion of fundamental civil liberties. It was challenged by six plaintiffs, including writer Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, and Daniel Ellsberg, known as the source of the Pentagon Papers.
“Today is a day to celebrate,” said plaintiff Tangerine Bolen. “The steady assault on the US Constitution was dramatically slowed today, as Judge Katherine Forrest ruled in our favor. After eleven years of witnessing a radical departure from democracy and fundamental civil liberties and towards increased authoritarianism — all under the guise of the war on terror — we have a ray of hope and reason to keep the faith: in judges who stand with the Constitution, in the rule of law, and in all those who sacrifice so much to preserve our liberties.”
The Obama administration has previously defended the law and may appeal the decision to a higher court.
Demand Progress, an activist group, has launched a petition urging the president not to appeal the ruling, and urging the U.S. Senate to reject the indefinite detention provisions when it votes on a new defense spending bill later this year.
The court ruling came the same day that the House voted to extend FISA, a controversial domestic surveillance act that allows the government to conduct wiretaps and intercept other communications without a warrant.
Congress has passed the measures despite criticism from some lawmakers, including Sen. Mark Udall (D- Colo.).
Udall tried to remove the provisions from the defense bill, saying that they could actually hinder the government’s ability to fight terrorism. The provision is not needed because law enforcement officials have adequate tools already in place, Udall has said.
As to FISA, Udall has said he opposes extension of the program at least until there is more accountability as to how the measure affects the privacy of Americans. In particular, Udall says it’s important to know how many Americans have had their phone calls and e-mails collected under the law.