When United States District Judge Katherine Forrest blocked the implementation of Section 1021 of the infamous National Defense Authorization Act in May of this year, I thought that legal civilians of all stripes were saved from being at risk of imprisonment without trial or due process. However, an appeals court stayed Judge Forrest’s injunction and the appellate court has allowed the indefinite detention provision to be reinstated during the appeal time frame.
Naomi Wolf of the Guardian explains why a group of journalists sued to block the implementation of Section 1021 in the first place. “As I reported here, last spring a group of journalists and activists including Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky and Tangerine Bolen, led by counsel Bruce Afran and others, sued President Obama to halt the implementation of Section 1021 in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would have allowed for the indefinite detention of Americans without charge or trial. The vague definition of who could be detained included individuals who were seen to provide “substantial support” to al-Qaida’s “associated forces” – wording that provided no protection for journalists interviewing, for example, detainees in Guantánamo, or activists and advocates working with prisoners on their cases.”
The fact that the Obama Administration continues to argue in favor of the indefinite detention provision is sad enough, but now, while the appeal is in process, Senator Diane Feinstein has submitted a suspect amendment to the NDAA. Her amendment would possibly allow the military to take American citizens and civilian non-citizens into detention and force them into military tribunals, instead of a trial in a United States District Court. “To make matters worse, a recent development sees the threat of the NDAA on US citizens increasing. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein recently introduced an amendment to the 2013 NDAA, which, at first, seems to protect Americans’ due process – but, on closer examination, can be easily misinterpreted. Afran said that the Feinstein amendment “puts a gloss” on a very dangerous situation,
“First of all, the Feinstein amendment does not say that people in the US can’t be put into military custody. It simply says they can’t be taken into indefinite military custody without ‘trial’. If they are taken into military custody, they have to be given a trial of some sort – but not due process in a civil court. The [kind of] trial this refers to would be … military tribunals. So the Feinstein amendment does virtually nothing for American citizens or people in the United States in terms of protection.”