A group political activists and journalists has launched a legal challenge to stop an American law they say allows the US military to arrest civilians anywhere in the world and detain them without trial as accused supporters of terrorism.
The seven figures, who include ex-New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, professor Noam Chomsky and Icelandic politician and WikiLeaks campaigner Birgitta Jonsdottir, testified to a Manhattan judge that the law ”“ dubbed the NDAA or Homeland Battlefield Bill ”“ would cripple free speech around the world.
They said that various provisions written into the National Defense Authorization Bill, which was signed by President Barack Obama at the end of 2011, effectively broadened the definition of “supporter of terrorism” to include peaceful activists, authors, academics and even journalists interviewing members of radical groups.
Controversy centres on the loose definition of key words in the bill, in particular who might be “associated forces” of the law’s named terrorist groups al-Qaida and the Taliban and what “substantial support” to those groups might get defined as. Whereas White House officials have denied the wording extends any sort of blanket coverage to civilians, rather than active enemy combatants, or actions involved in free speech, some civil rights experts have said the lack of precise definition leaves it open to massive potential abuse.
Hedges, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winner and longtime writer on the Middle East, told New York judge Katherine Forrest on Thursday that he feared he might be subject to arrest under the terms of NDAA if interviewing or meeting Islamic radicals could constitute giving them “substantial support” under the terms of the law.
“I could be detained by the US military, held in a military facility ”“ including offshore ”“ denied due process and incarcerated until ‘the end of hostilities’ whenever that is,” Hedges said. He added that the law was already impacting his ability to work as he feared speaking to or meeting with sources who the US government could see as terrorists or advocates of violence.
“Any kind of language in my presence that countenances violence against the US … given the passage of the NDAA, really terrifies me,” he said.
The reason I’m helping Chris Hedges’ lawsuit against the NDAA
By placing journalists in jeopardy for reporting on ‘terrorists’, the Homeland Battlefield Bill has had a chilling effect on media work.
The Guardian, By Naomi Wolf, March 28
I have discussed the terms of the Homeland Battlefield Bill ”“ also known as the National Defense Authorization Act ”“ with numerous other journalists, writers, and members of democracy-supporting organizations across the political spectrum, from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee to the Tenth Amendment Center. I have also discussed the bill with various political leaders, including city council members and legislators, who span the political spectrum in the United States. They all agree that the bill can potentially affect an American journalist who meets with and publishes reports on individuals connected to organizations deemed terrorist by the United States government.
To state the obvious, I do not support terrorism or any terrorist groups. I do not believe acts of violence against civilian populations are an appropriate way to achieve political, or any other change. I have never supported or condoned the actions of any terrorist organization.
I do, however, believe that a properly functioning media should report on newsworthy items, including discussions with and beliefs professed by various groups, including persons whom the United States government has labeled as terrorists. I believe part of my job involves meeting with, discussing ideas with, and publishing stories about persons and groups who have, or are under threat of being, labeled a terrorist or terrorist group.
My understanding of the bill, however, has forced me to decline to meet with certain newsworthy individuals, and groups of people, for fear that my communications with them and publishing articles on these individuals could be considered to be providing material support to a terrorist or terrorist organization. I have forgone meeting with individuals, and reporting on facts and stories, that I otherwise believe are newsworthy, and contribute to a healthy national discourse ”“ for no other reason than to avoid potential repercussions under the bill.
The NDAA: a clear and present danger to American liberty
The US is sleepwalking into becoming a police state, where, like a pre-Magna Carta monarch, the president can lock up anyone.
The Guardian, By Naomi Wolf, February 29
Yes, the worst things you may have heard about the National Defense Authorization Act, which has formally ended 254 years of democracy in the United States of America, and driven a stake through the heart of the bill of rights, are all really true. The act passed with large margins in both the House and the Senate on the last day of last year ”“ even as tens of thousands of Americans were frantically begging their representatives to secure Americans’ habeas corpus rights in the final version.
It does indeed ”“ contrary to the many flatout-false form letters I have seen that both senators and representatives sent to their constituents, misleading them about the fact that the NDAA destroys their due process rights. Under the act, anyone can be described as a ‘belligerent”. As the New American website puts it,
“[S]ubsequent clauses (Section 1022, for example) unlawfully give the president the absolute and unquestionable authority to deploy the armed forces of the United States to apprehend and to indefinitely detain those suspected of threatening the security of the ‘homeland’. In the language of this legislation, these people are called ‘covered persons’.
“The universe of potential ‘covered persons’ includes every citizen of the United States of America. Any American could one day find himself or herself branded a ‘belligerent’ and thus subject to the complete confiscation of his or her constitutional civil liberties and nearly never-ending incarceration in a military prison.”
And with a new bill now being introduced to make it a crime to protest in a way that disrupts any government process ”“ or to get close to anyone with secret service protection ”“ the push to legally lock down the United Police States is in full force.
Continued: The NDAA’s section 1021 coup d’etat foiled