Citing First Amendment Concerns, Federal Judge Overturns Indefinite Detention Law

A federal judge in Manhattan has struck down a law authorizing indefinite military detention of terrorism suspects.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest ruled in a suit by journalist Chris Hedges and several WikiLeaks supporters, the New York Times reports. They feared the government would view their activities as supporting terrorism and detain them under the law.

The government used indefinite detention since 2001, citing a congressional authorization to use military force against those who aided the Sept. 11 attacks, the Times explains. The statute passed last year codified that authority and broadened the group of potential detainees to include anyone who “was a part of or substantially supported” al-Qaida, the Taliban and associated forces engaged in hostilities with the United States or its allies.

Forrest issued a permanent injunction blocking the law on Wednesday, according to the Times, Bloomberg News and the Associated Press.

Forrest wrote that the law is “is facially unconstitutional: it impermissibly impinges on guaranteed First Amendment rights and lacks sufficient definitional structure and protections to meet the requirements of due process.”

Forrest questioned whether a news article viewed as favorable to the Taliban could be seen as having “substantially supported” the group.

“How about a YouTube video? Where is the line between what the government would consider ‘journalistic reporting’ and ‘propaganda?’ ” Forrest wrote in the opinion. “Who will make such determinations? Will there be an office established to read articles, watch videos, and evaluate speeches in order to make judgments along a spectrum of where the support is ‘modest’ or ‘substantial?’ “

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