Decision Hinders U.S. Detention Powers

Last week, United States District Court Judge Katherine B. Forrest ruled that Congress’ new interpretation of The National Defense Authorization Act is beyond the scope of government’s detention powers, and the original text of the 2001 Act. The U.S. military has been operating under the statute since its enactment following the 9/11 attacks. As a result of the recent Guantanamo litigation, a subsequent  interpretation of the Act redefines the scope of detention. Under the reformulation, the United States not only has the power to detain members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but also their “substantial supporters.”

In a very controversial ruling, Judge Forrest issued an injunction to the broader detaining power. The court additionally implied sanctions against any military force that uses its detention powers in a way that is inconsistent with Judge Forrest’s ruling. The Obama administration promptly replied by asking for an emergency stay, warning that the ruling “threatens irreparable harm to national security and the public interest by injecting added burdens and confusion to the conduct of military operations abroad.” The motion was declined by Judge Forrest, and the government is now looking to appeal. Interestingly enough, President Obama appointed Judge Forrest to the Southern District last fall.

The contentious ruling may even persuade the Supreme Court to speak on the issue of the military’s detention powers and limitations. The journalists who originally brought the claim to Judge Forrest’s court alleged that the extensive interpretation of the National Defense Authorization Act violated their First Amendment rights by creating fear that they could be detained under it.

The new interpretation of the statute begs the issue of what constitutes enough involvement to be considered a “substantial supporter” of one of these terrorist groups. In the past, the international community has been very vocal regarding the United States’ detention powers and potential human rights violations.

Do you think that Judge Forrest was correct in ruling that “substantial supporters” of these terrorist groups, go beyond the reach of the United States’ detention powers? Is it fair for the military to be subject to sanctions if they do not comply with Judge Forrest’s order? Should the Supreme Court intervene and clarify what powers the military has in regards to detention? Do you think the international community’s opinion will have any weight in regards to the appeal of this ruling?

Source: N.Y. Times

One comment

  1. Of course Judge Forrest was correct in limiting the reach of the detention powers. The term “substantial supporters” is an open-ended phrase used to skirt the rules and has no definite definition. There are inherent dangers with allowing the government to detain anyone deemed to be a substantial supporter because it allows any potentially dangerous person to be detained as long as the government can fit them into this group. For example, what if a member of a different terrorist group or if a domestic terrorist who has read Al Qaeda writings were to be captured?

    Judge Forrest was brave enough to challenge the overly intrusive interpretation of the National Defense Authorization Act. No longer will the United States government be able to illegally detain people under the guise of an overly broad interpretation of a statute. While there is definitely a very important national security issue, the government should be able to defend the nation without intruding on the rights of international citizens.

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