Less than a month after the National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law, President Barack Obama faces a lawsuit because of its highly controversial provisions regarding the detention of suspected terrorists.
Attorneys Carl J. Mayer and Bruce I. Afran filed a complaint against Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta Friday in the Southern U.S. District Court in New York City on behalf of journalist Chris Hedges. The complaint states that the law violates the First and Fifth Amendments.
The $662 billion defense spending bill contained a controversial section that required terrorism suspects to be detained by the military without trial, regardless of where they were captured.
Despite language in the law that states it does not affect existing authorities relating to the detention of U.S. citizens or others captured within the U.S., Hedges claims that it still allows the government to detain Americans indefinitely without trial.
“I spent many years in countries where the military had the power to arrest and detain citizens without charge,” Hedges explained at TruthDig. “I have been in some of these jails. I have friends and colleagues who have ‘disappeared’ into military gulags. I know the consequences of granting sweeping and unrestricted policing power to the armed forces of any nation. And while my battle may be quixotic, it is one that has to be fought if we are to have any hope of pulling this country back from corporate fascism.”
While signing the bill, Obama issued a signing statement in which he pledged that the new laws would not violate Americans’ constitutional rights. But human rights advocates said that did not prevent future administrations from abusing the law.
The complaint alleges that Hedges could fall within the scope of the law. As part of his job as a journalist, he has direct communications with persons who are likely to be deemed engaged in hostilities with the United States. The detention provisions cover anyone who has “substantially supported” or “directly supported” “al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”
Hedges said at TruthDig that the controversial bill passed “because the corporations, seeing the unrest in the streets, knowing that things are about to get much worse, worrying that the Occupy movement will expand, do not trust the police to protect them. They want to be able to call in the Army. And now they can.