Guantanamo: Legislation

CA2 Decides Hedges, Concludes that Plaintiffs Lack Standing

By Wells Bennett
Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 11:36 AM

The opinion, which I've only now begun to skim, is here.  From the decision's opening paragraphs:

 On December 31, 2011, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. Section 1021 of that statute, which fits on a single page, is Congress’ first—and, to date, only—foray into providing further clarity on that question. Of particular importance for our purposes, Section 1021(b)(2) appears to permit the President to detain anyone who was part of, or has substantially supported, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces.
The controversy over Section 1021 was immediate. The government contends that Section 1021 simply reaffirms authority that the government already had under the AUMF, suggesting at times that the statute does next to nothing at all. Plaintiffs take a different view. They are journalists and activists who allegedly fear that the government may construe their work as having substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces. They contend that Section 1021 is a dramatic expansion of the President’s military detention authority, supposedly authorizing the military, for the first time, to detain American citizens on American soil. As one group of amici has noted, “[r]arely has a short statute been subject to more radically different interpretations than Section 1021.”
Plaintiffs brought this action shortly after the statute was enacted. They sought an injunction barring enforcement of Section 1021 and a declaration that it violates, among other things, their rights under the First and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The district court agreed and entered a permanent injunction restraining detention pursuant to Section 1021(b)(2). It is that decision that we review here.
We conclude that plaintiffs lack standing to seek preenforcement review of Section 1021 and vacate the permanent injunction. The American citizen plaintiffs lack standing because Section 1021 says nothing at all about the President’s authority to detain American citizens. And while Section 1021 does have a real bearing on those who are neither citizens nor lawful resident aliens and who are apprehended abroad, the non-citizen plaintiffs also have failed to establish standing because they have not shown a sufficient threat that the government will detain them under Section 1021. Accordingly, we do not address the merits of plaintiffs’ constitutional claims.