Judge Forrest’s Invitation to Congress: Pass the Smith-Amash Amendment

As I noted yesterday, Judge Katherine Forrest from enforcing Section 1021 of last year’s NDAA, because it is having a chilling effect on the First Amendment protected activities of plaintiff’s including Chris Hedges.

There’s an aspect of her ruling that was rather auspiciously timed. Because in addition to enjoining 1021, she invited Congress to fix it.

Accordingly, this Court preliminarily enjoins enforcement of §1021 pending further proceedings in this Court or remedial action by Congress mooting the need for such further proceedings.

As luck would have it, the House is poised to vote today on the Smith-Amash amendment to next year’s NDAA. Their amendment would largely–though perhaps not entirely–“moot the need” for any further proceedings in the Hedges case, because it would eliminate indefinite military detention for those captured in the US.

Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Justin Amash [my Rep] are planning to offer an amendment to this year’s defense authorization bill that would guarantee that no one—citizen or otherwise—could be denied a fair trial if captured in the United States. Smith, who is the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, will introduce the bill during a hearing Wednesday. Amash has agreed to support it once the defense bill comes to the floor next week, possibly bringing along enough Republican support to ensure its passage in the House.

“The amendment is drafted to prevent the president from indefinitely detaining persons captured on US soil without charge or trial,” said Will Adams, a spokesperson for Amash.

I spoke to Adams last night, and the Amendment is within striking distance of having enough votes to pass–though the House leadership is trying a bunch of stunts to avoid that outcome.

I said passing this Amendment would mostly moot further proceedings. That’s because Forrest issued her injunction covering all the plaintiffs, including people like Brigitta Jonsdottir, who is an Icelandic citizen and has sworn off from traveling to the US because of the NDAA and other Wikileaks related prosecution. Whereas the Smith-Amash amendment would apply to Jonsdottir only if she were in the US; it doesn’t offer any protection to non-citizens outside of the US.

Which means, with her ruling, Forrest has made the Smith-Amash amendment the sensible middle ground (really, it ought to be considered the bare minimum, but even still, before last night it didn’t stand a chance in hell of passing the Senate). That is, it does what most Americans seem to want done to the NDAA, to limit it so it doesn’t apply to them.

In her ruling, Forrest made it clear she tried to offer the government an easy way to help her avoid enjoining this section.

The Court’s attempt to avoid having to deal with the Constitutional aspects of the challenge was by providing the Government with prompt notice in the form of declarations and depositions of the precise conduct in which plaintiffs are involved and which they claim places them in fear of military detention. To put it bluntly, eliminating these plaintiffs’ standing simply by representing that their conduct does not fall within the scope of § 1021 would have been simple. The Government chose not to do so–thereby ensuring standing and requiring this Court to reach the merits of the instant motion.

She also made it clear she’d welcome Congress fixing the problem. Let’s see if they do so today.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

2 replies
  1. bmaz says:

    I think, while welcome, it would not moot the case (as you noted) nor stop the govt from appealing. I suppose it is possible that they would forego it under the thought the issue is covered in the Clapper appeal from the 2nd Circuit (which, by the way, is a very pleasant exception to what I noted earlier in the previous post about 2nd Circuit tendencies). I don’t think the govt would do that though, because Clapper revolves primarily around 4th Amendment issues that may be their favor under Sibron v. New York doctrine, but still leave open Hedges on 1st Amendment centric cases.

  2. orionATL says:

    a u.s. federal judge actually demanded the dept of justice explain their reasoning in a national “security’ case, and when the doj refused, as they have so often before in federal court,

    judge katherine forrest ruled against the gov’t?

    how can that be? where did this freak of a judge come from?

    check – check – check

    of course! that explains it.

    she didn’t graduate from harvard law.

    she got her law degree from new york university.

    and her undergraduate degree is from wesleyen univ.

    saved – by one of the non-elite of our nation.

Comments are closed.