NDAA, Indefinite Detention Injunction Applies Broadly, Federal Judge Says

Federal Judge Rebuffs Administration On NDAA, Indefinite Detention

A federal judge rejected an Obama administration attempt to beat back her earlier ruling against the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act this week, standing by her decision against a segment of law's indefinite detention provision and writing that her injunction applied broadly.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest ruled unconstitutional a small segment of the 565-page NDAA authorizing the detention of suspects, including U.S. citizens, who had "substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces." The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by the so-called "Freedom 7," a group of journalists and activists who had expressed concerns that the vaguely worded statute, contained in the act's Section 1021, could be applied to them during the course of their work.

The Obama administration responded to Forrest's ruling by asking her to reconsider what it characterized as an "extraordinary" decision. In a footnote of their request, Obama's legal team also said it planned to interpret the injunction as applying only to the handful of plaintiffs named in the case.

On Wednesday, however, Forrest countered the administration, saying that not only was she standing by her ruling, but that her injunction was meant to protect all potential targets of the NDAA's most loosely worded indefinite detention provision.

"The May 16 order found Section 1021(b)(2) constitutionally infirm on two bases: the First Amendment and the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment," Forrest wrote in an 8-page order. "As set forth below, the law has long provided that this type of finding has provided relief to both the parties pursuing the challenge, as well as third parties not before the Court. ... Put more bluntly, the May 16 order enjoined enforcement of Section 1021(b)(2) against anyone until further action by this, or a higher, court - or by Congress."

Forrest's memorandum could put pressure on the administration to file a formal appeal against her initial decision. Obama's lawyers have a 60-day window from May 16 to do so.

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