June 28, 2013
In January 2012, New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Christopher Hedges filed a federal lawsuit against President Obama, challenging detention provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of Fiscal Year 2012.
The Act authorized $662 billion in funding, “for defense of the United States and it’s interests abroad.” Central to Hedges’ suit, a controversial provision set forth in subsection 1021 of Title X, Sub-title (d) entitled “Counter-Terrorism,” authorizing indefinite military detention of individuals the government suspects are involved in terrorism, including U.S. citizens arrested on American soil.
Over the last two years, a broad coalition including the Tenth Amendment Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and many others formed in opposition to indefinite detention provisions, concerned with over-broad language open to wide interpretation and the growing scope of presidential authority. In support of Hedges, many of these individuals and organizations joined together as anAmicus Curiae, otherwise known as a Friend of the Court. The coalition filed an Amicus Brief supporting Hedges’ interpretation of the controversial issues abounding in Hedges v. Obama. The Amicus Curiae states, “Each entity is dedicated, inter alia (among other things), to the correct construction, interpretation, and application of the law.”
For those not familiar with an Amicus Brief, it is a document filed with a court by a person or group not directly involved in the case. The brief often contains information useful to a judge when evaluating the merits of a case and it becomes part of the official record. In addition to filing a brief, Amicus Curiae can involve itself in a case in many ways. It can contribute academic evaluations of subject matters, it can testify in a case, and on rare cases it can help contribute to oral arguments. Many times, state and local governments also join a case as a “Friend” if they believe it will impact them. This happened in Hedges v. Obama. A large number of concerned individuals and advocacy organizations enjoined the case as Amicus Curiae.
The Amicus Brief of this case commences by focusing on the ambiguity of the language in section 1021 of the 2012 NDAA.
“Rarely has a short statute been subject to more radically different interpretations than Section 1021 of the NDAA of 2012.”
The “Friends” contend the verbiage offers diametrically opposite meanings.
”The Framers would be greatly shocked to hear the United States assert that an American President has power to place civilians in the U.S. or citizens abroad into military custody absent status as armed combatants. No President has ever held such power.”
As the Amicus Curiae implies, the language of this law is dangerously vague. Many believe the provisions of Section 1021 grant dictatorial powers to the federal government to arrest any American citizen without a warrant and indefinitely detain them without charge. Detainees can be shipped to the military’s offshore prisons and kept there until “the end of hostilities.”