(h/t to Liz Berry at Firedoglake for alerting me to Chris Hedges’s lawsuit in her post yesterday)
Chris Hedges recently filed a lawsuit against President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, which is located in New York City. He is challenging the constitutionality of the National Defense Authorization Act that the president signed into law on December 31, 2011. The law will go into effect on March 3, 2012.
This is the controversial law that authorizes the military to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone without a trial, including U.S. citizens within the territorial boundaries of our nation, if they are deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism. He calls this law “a catastrophic blow to civil liberties.” I agree.
He alleges in his complaint that he is at risk to be detained under this law because, in practicing his profession as a journalist, he already has engaged in activities by spending time with and developing long-term relationships with individuals actively involved in activities to overthrow authoritarian governments that are allied with the United States. He contends that hose activities could arguably constitute a violation of this statute, given its vague and undefined terms like “substantially supported” terrorism, “directly supported” terrorism, and “associated forces” with Al Qaeda.
The Government will no doubt move to dismiss his complaint on the ground that he lacks standing to challenge the constitutionality of the statute because he has not been detained under its provisions. This argument has been successful in the past in other cases.
Hedges hopes to satisfy the standing requirement, since he intends to continue to develop relationships with and interview people who are actively involved in challenging authoritarian governments and U.S. corporate power. Given the government’s past behavior targeting and harassing peace, antiwar, and environmental groups for non-violently opposing government and corporate activity, he believes that the government will regard him as a person who supports terrorism, if he should write reports from the field that criticize the U.S. and its military. This would place him at risk to be disappeared into a U.S. gulag by the U.S. military, if the court does not act.
He is asking the court to issue a declaratory judgment that the statute is unconstitutional because it is vague (i.e., he cannot reasonably figure out where the line is between legal and illegal acts and thereby avoid violating the statute), overbroad (i.e., violates his First Amendment right to investigate and report the news), and would deny him due process of law under the Fifth Amendment(i.e., because he could not challenge his confinement and would be denied a trial).
That would be enough for me, if I were the judge, to grant the relief that he requests.
But, I ain’t wearing the robe.