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NDAA in court over indefinite detention of Americans

Published time: March 30, 2012 17:42
Edited time: April 20, 2012 14:40
Reuters / Shannon Stapleton

Reuters / Shannon Stapleton

After much debate on a new law signed by President Barack Obama, House Republicans are throwing around the idea of reviewing the National Defense Authorization Act after the law was challenged in court.

Seven witnesses appeared in front of US District Judge Katherine Forrest in New York on Thursday. Among the seven individuals,a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Chris Hedges was responsible for filing the lawsuit believes the “indefinite detention” portion of the law could result in his imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay for merely doing his job.

Hedges a repeated guest on RT is an author, columnist for TruthDig.Com and a Middle-East expert, expressed in Federal court that the NDAA would have an effect on journalists and activists worldwide.

I think its [NDAA] clearly unconstitutional, certainly the lawyers Bruce Afran and Carl Mayer who are bringing the case believe it is unconstitutional,” Hedges said to RT.

Hedges who comes in contact with several individuals from the Middle-East fears the US government will attempt to link him to a terrorist network when in fact he is merely reporting.

It’s quite a frightening piece of legislation,” he added.

The defense bill passed by Congress and signed by Obama into law on New Year’s Eve, permits the detention of Americans and denies suspected “terrorists” the right to a trial and subjects the individual to be held indefinitely.

During the signing of the NDAA Obama claimed he had serious reservations about the provisions on detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.

"My administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens," Obama said in a statement regarding this law.

"Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation," he added.

Obama originally opposed the act but signed it anyway.

The NDAA has caused a lot of commotion among civil rights groups and many feel the resentment towards the bill has pushed lawmakers to take action.

"I intend to help put as much political pressure on this issue as possible," said Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) in a Huffington Post report.

"I intend to spend a lot of time – and I already have been doing so – making the public aware of this issue so we can get the change we need to address it," he added.

The only change Obama has brought regarding the issue came in February.

The Obama administration defined new rules on the law saying when it is appropriate for the FBI to arrest suspected terrorists rather than the US military.

According to the Huffington Post, “the new procedures spelled out seven circumstances in which the president could place a suspect in FBI, rather than military, custody, including a wavier when it could impede counterterrorism cooperation with another government or when it could interfere with efforts to secure an individual’s cooperation or confession.”

Still the changes by the Obama administration are insufficient critics say.

It is a decimation of the most basic civil liberty that Americans have taken for granted it overturns two-hundred years of domestic law which has prohibited the military from functioning as a police force…and it removes due process,” Hedges said.

The GOP majority in the House Armed Services Committee who are considering numerous plans to revise the provision on indefinite detention haven’t gone public with their potential changes, but added they could be completed as early as this summer.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) have presented legislation that would abolish the provision on indefinite detention and have the mandatory military custody for extraneous terrorist suspects not Americans.

"I will continue to push that bill," Smith said in an interview.

"I know the majority is also putting together some ideas. They're very process-focused. … I have not seen specifics of that proposal yet and we'll talk to them about it, but obviously I have a much stronger position on that and think that we don't need to have indefinite detention or military custody for the people in the US," Smith added.

"There clearly has been some blowback and that's what the Republicans are trying to address," Smith said.

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