The NDAA’s section 1021 coup d’etat foiled
One brave judge is all that lay between us and a law that would have given the president power to detain US citizens indefinitely
On Wednesday 16 May, at about 4pm, the republic of the United States of America was drawn back – at least for now – from a precipice that would have plunged our country into moral darkness. One brave and principled newly-appointed judge ruled against a law that would have brought the legal powers of the authorities of Guantánamo home to our own courthouses, streets and backyards.
US district judge Katherine Forrest, in New York City’s eastern district, found that section 1021 – the key section of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – which had been rushed into law amid secrecy and in haste on New Year’s Eve 2011, bestowing on any president the power to detain US citizens indefinitely, without charge or trial, “facially unconstitutional”. Forrest concluded that the law does indeed have, as the journalists and peaceful activists who brought the lawsuit against the president and Leon Panetta have argued, a “chilling impact on first amendment rights”. Her ruling enjoins that section of the NDAA from becoming law.