We Won—For Now

Chris Hedges, the man who sued Obama over the NDAA and won, writes an article about it.  Obama has already filed an appeal

“We Won—For Now

Showdown between the president and the judiciary

By Chris Hedges

September 17, 2012 “Information Clearing House” –  In January I sued President Barack Obama over Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorized the military to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely, strip them of due process and hold them in military facilities, including offshore penal colonies. Last week, round one in the battle to strike down the onerous provision, one that saw me joined by six other plaintiffs including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, ended in an unqualified victory for the public. U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest, who accepted every one of our challenges to the law, made her temporary injunction of the section permanent. In short, she declared the law unconstitutional.

Almost immediately after Judge Forrest ruled, the Obama administration challenged the decision. Government prosecutors called the opinion “unprecedented” and said that “the government has compelling arguments that it should be reversed.” The government added that it was an “extraordinary injunction of worldwide scope.” Government lawyers asked late Friday for an immediate stay of Forrest’s ban on the use of the military in domestic policing and on the empowering of the government to strip U.S. citizens of due process. The request for a stay was an attempt by the government to get the judge, pending appeal to a higher court, to grant it the right to continue to use the law. Forrest swiftly rejected the stay, setting in motion a fast-paced appeal to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and possibly, if her ruling is upheld there, to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Justice Department sent a letter to Forrest and the 2nd Circuit late Friday night informing them that at 9 a.m. Monday the Obama administration would ask the 2nd Circuit for an emergency stay that would lift Forrest’s injunction. This would allow Obama to continue to operate with indefinite detention authority until a formal appeal was heard. The government’s decision has triggered a constitutional showdown between the president and the judiciary. 

“This may be the most significant constitutional standoff since the Pentagon Papers case,” said Carl Mayer, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs.

“The administration of President Obama within the last 48 hours has decided to engage in an all-out campaign to block and overturn an order of a federal judge,” said co-lead counsel Bruce Afran. “As Judge Forrest noted in her opinion, nothing is more fundamental in American law than the possibility that journalists, activists and citizens could lose their liberty, potentially forever, and the Obama administration has now lined up squarely with the most conservative elements of the Republican Party to undermine Americans’ civil liberties.”

The request by the government to keep the law on the books during the appeal process raises a disturbing question. If the administration is this anxious to restore this section of the NDAA, is it because the Obama government has already used it? Or does it have plans to use the section in the immediate future?

“A Department of Homeland Security bulletin was issued Friday claiming that the riots [in the Middle East] are likely to come to the U.S. and saying that DHS is looking for the Islamic leaders of these likely riots,” Afran said. “It is my view that this is why the government wants to reopen the NDAA—so it has a tool to round up would-be Islamic protesters before they can launch any protest, violent or otherwise. Right now there are no legal tools to arrest would-be protesters. The NDAA would give the government such power. Since the request to vacate the injunction only comes about on the day of the riots, and following the DHS bulletin, it seems to me that the two are connected. The government wants to reopen the NDAA injunction so that they can use it to block protests.”

The decision to vigorously fight Forrest’s ruling is a further example of the Obama White House’s steady and relentless assault against civil liberties, an assault that is more severe than that carried out by George W. Bush. Obama has refused to restore habeas corpus. He supports the FISA Amendment Act, which retroactively makes legal what under our Constitution has traditionally been illegal—warrantless wire tapping, eavesdropping and monitoring directed against U.S. citizens. He has used the Espionage Act six times against whistle-blowers who have exposed government crimes, including war crimes, to the public. He interprets the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act as giving him the authority to assassinate U.S. citizens, as he did the cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. And now he wants the right to use the armed forces to throw U.S. citizens into military prisons, where they will have no right to a trial and no defined length of detention.

Liberal apologists for Barack Obama should read Judge Forrest’s 112-page ruling. It is a chilling explication and denunciation of the massive erosion of the separation of powers. It courageously challenges the overreach of Congress and the executive branch in stripping Americans of some of our most cherished constitutional rights.

In the last 220 years there have been only about 135 judicial rulings that have struck down an act of Congress. Most of the cases involved abortion or pornography. Very few dealt with wartime powers and the separation of powers, or what Forrest in her opinion called “a question of defining an individual’s core liberties.”

Section 1021(b)(2) authorizes the military to detain any U.S. citizen who “substantially supported” al-Qaida, the Taliban or “associated forces” and then hold them in military compounds until “the end of hostilities.” The vagueness of the language, and the refusal to exempt journalists, means that those of us who as part of our reporting have direct contact with individuals or groups deemed to be part of a terrorist network can find ourselves seized and detained under the provision.

“The Government was unable to offer definitions for the phrases ‘substantially support’ or ‘directly support,’ ” the judge wrote. “In particular, when the Court asked for one example of what ‘substantially support’ means, the Government stated, ‘I’m not in a position to give one specific example.’ When asked about the phrase ‘directly support,’ the Government stated, ‘I have not thought through exactly and we have not come to a position on ‘direct support’ and what that means.’ In its pre-trial memoranda, the Government also did not provide any definitional examples for those terms.”

The judge’s ruling asked whether a news article deemed by authorities as favorable to the Taliban could be interpreted as having “substantially supported” the Taliban.

“How about a YouTube video?” she went on. “Where is the line between what the government would consider ‘journalistic reporting’ and ‘propaganda?’ Who will make such determinations? Will there be an office established to read articles, watch videos, and evaluate speeches in order to make judgments along a spectrum of where the support is ‘modest’ or ‘substantial?’ ”

Forrest concurred with the plaintiffs that the statute violated our free speech rights and due-process guarantees. She noted that “the Court repeatedly asked the Government whether those particular past activities could subject plaintiffs to indefinite detention; the Government refused to answer.” The judge went on to criticize the nebulous language of the law, chastising the government because it “did not provide particular definitions.” She wrote that “the statute’s vagueness falls far short of what due process requires.” 

Although government lawyers argued during the trial that the law represented no change from prior legislation, they now assert that blocking it imperils the nation’s security. It is one of numerous contradictions in the government’s case, many of which were illuminated in Forrest’s opinion. The government, she wrote, “argues that no future administration could interpret § 1021(b)(2) or the AUMF differently because the two are so clearly the same. That frankly makes no sense, particularly in light of the Government’s inability at the March and August hearings to define certain terms in—or the scope of—§ 1021(b)(2).” The judge said that “Section 1021 appears to be a legislative attempt at an ex post facto ‘fix’: to provide the President (in 2012) with broader detention authority than was provided in the AUMF [Authorization to Use Military Force Act] in 2001 and to try and ratify past detentions which may have occurred under an overly-broad interpretation of the AUMF.”

The government, in effect, is attempting to push though a law similar to the legislation that permitted the government to intern 110,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II. This law, if it comes back into force, would facilitate the mass internment of Muslim Americans as well as those deemed to “support” groups or activities defined as terrorist by the state. Calling the 1944 ruling “an embarrassment,” Forrest referred to Korematsu v. United States, which upheld the government’s internment of Japanese-Americans. 

The judge said in her opinion that the government “did not submit any evidence in support of its positions. It did not call a single witness, submit a single declaration, or offer a single document at any point during these proceedings.” She went on to write that she found “the testimony of each plaintiff credible.”

“At the March hearing, the Court asked whether Hedges’ activities could subject him to detention under § 1021; the Government stated that it was not prepared to address that question. When asked a similar question at the August hearing, five months later, the Government remained unwilling to state whether any of plaintiffs’ (including Hedges’s) protected First Amendment future activities could subject him or her to detention under § 1021. This Court finds that Hedges has a reasonable fear of detention pursuant to § 1021(b)(2).”

The government has now lost four times in a litigation that has gone on almost nine months. It lost the preliminary injunction in May. It lost a motion for reconsideration shortly thereafter. It lost the permanent injunction. It lost its request last week for a stay. We won’t stop fighting this, but it is deeply disturbing that the Obama administration, rather than protecting our civil liberties and democracy, insists on further eroding them by expanding the power of the military to seize U.S. citizens and control our streets.

Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years

This this article was first published at Truth Dig

© 2012 TruthDig.com”

The Real American Terrorist

From our friend Joshua of the Patriot’s Lament!

“This man is a fool.

And a traitor. If you have been keeping up with this blog, you will notice his use of the term “Law of War” and you know what that term actually means. You will also hear him speak of the “Quirin Precedent”, just like we pointed out in a previous blog, and you know he is a lying snake. You also see him declare the American homeland the battlefield. It certainly is.

If you didn’t puke all your lunch up after watching that one, this should finish it off. Take note at minute 3.

And one more.
In this one you get to hear these traitors say they actually don’t think the bill goes far enough. So you can guarantee yourself that this is just the beginning.

You folks in S. Carolina, what is going on there? Can’t you kick this guy out and at least vote in a dog or a rat or a snake or anything else that’s not so repugnant?”

Notes From a Guantanamo Survivor

Lord help me if writing in support of a person who was previously accused of terrorism is deemed to be sufficient enough for myself to be accused of “supporting terrorism” by my government.  We know that Obama and the recently signed NDAA 2012 claims the right to indefinitely detain the innocent-but-accused-of-supporting-terrorism, holding the accused without the right to a defense.  Does this mean we will see The New York Times Editorial Board being water-boarded sometime in the near future?

January 7, 2012

Notes From a Guantánamo Survivor

By MURAT KURNAZ

Bremen, Germany

I LEFT Guantánamo Bay much as I had arrived almost five years earlier — shackled hand-to-waist, waist-to-ankles, and ankles to a bolt on the airplane floor. My ears and eyes were goggled, my head hooded, and even though I was the only detainee on the flight this time, I was drugged and guarded by at least 10 soldiers. This time though, my jumpsuit was American denim rather than Guantánamo orange. I later learned that my C-17 military flight from Guantánamo to Ramstein Air Base in my home country, Germany, cost more than $1 million.

When we landed, the American officers unshackled me before they handed me over to a delegation of German officials. The American officer offered to re-shackle my wrists with a fresh, plastic pair. But the commanding German officer strongly refused: “He has committed no crime; here, he is a free man.”

I was not a strong secondary school student in Bremen, but I remember learning that after World War II, the Americans insisted on a trial for war criminals at Nuremberg, and that event helped turn Germany into a democratic country. Strange, I thought, as I stood on the tarmac watching the Germans teach the Americans a basic lesson about the rule of law.

How did I arrive at this point? This Wednesday is the 10th anniversary of the opening of the detention camp at the American naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. I am not a terrorist. I have never been a member of Al Qaeda or supported them. I don’t even understand their ideas. I am the son of Turkish immigrants who came to Germany in search of work. My father has worked for years in a Mercedes factory. In 2001, when I was 18, I married a devout Turkish woman and wanted to learn more about Islam and to lead a better life. I did not have much money. Some of the elders in my town suggested I travel to Pakistan to learn to study the Koran with a religious group there.

I made my plans just before 9/11. I was 19 then and was naïve and did not think war in Afghanistan would have anything to do with Pakistan or my trip there. So I went ahead with my trip.

I was in Pakistan, on a public bus on my way to the airport to return to Germany when the police stopped the bus I was riding in. I was the only non-Pakistani on the bus — some people joke that my reddish hair makes me look Irish — so the police asked me to step off to look at my papers and ask some questions. German journalists told me the same thing happened to them. I was not a journalist, but a tourist, I explained. The police detained me but promised they would soon let me go to the airport. After a few days, the Pakistanis turned me over to American officials. At this point, I was relieved to be in American hands; Americans, I thought, would treat me fairly.

I later learned the United States paid a $3,000 bounty for me. I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently the United States distributed thousands of fliers all over Afghanistan, promising that people who turned over Taliban or Qaeda suspects would, in the words of one flier, get “enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life.” A great number of men wound up in Guantánamo as a result.

I was taken to Kandahar, in Afghanistan, where American interrogators asked me the same questions for several weeks: Where is Osama bin Laden? Was I with Al Qaeda? No, I told them, I was not with Al Qaeda. No, I had no idea where bin Laden was. I begged the interrogators to please call Germany and find out who I was. During their interrogations, they dunked my head under water and punched me in the stomach; they don’t call this waterboarding but it amounts to the same thing. I was sure I would drown.

At one point, I was chained to the ceiling of a building and hung by my hands for days. A doctor sometimes checked if I was O.K.; then I would be strung up again. The pain was unbearable.

After about two months in Kandahar, I was transferred to Guantánamo. There were more beatings, endless solitary confinement, freezing temperatures and extreme heat, days of forced sleeplessness. The interrogations continued always with the same questions. I told my story over and over — my name, my family, why I was in Pakistan. Nothing I said satisfied them. I realized my interrogators were not interested in the truth.

Despite all this, I looked for ways to feel human. I have always loved animals. I started hiding a piece of bread from my meals and feeding the iguanas that came to the fence. When officials discovered this, I was punished with 30 days in isolation and darkness.

I remained confused on basic questions: why was I here? With all its money and intelligence, the United States could not honestly believe I was Al Qaeda, could they?

After two and a half years at Guantánamo, in 2004, I was brought before what officials called a Combatant Status Review Tribunal, at which a military officer said I was an “enemy combatant” because a German friend had engaged in a suicide bombing in 2003 — after I was already at Guantánamo. I couldn’t believe my friend had done anything so crazy but, if he had, I didn’t know anything about it.

A couple of weeks later, I was told I had a visit from a lawyer. They took me to a special cell and in walked an American law professor, Baher Azmy. I didn’t believe he was a real lawyer at first; interrogators often lied to us and tried to trick us. But Mr. Azmy had a note written in Turkish which he had gotten from my mother, and that made me trust him. (My mother found a lawyer in my hometown in Germany who heard that lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights represented Guantánamo detainees; the center assigned Mr. Azmy my case.) He did not believe the evidence against me and quickly discovered that my “suicide bomber” friend was, in fact, alive and well in Germany.

Mr. Azmy, my mother and my German lawyer helped pressure the German government to secure my release. Recently, Mr. Azmy made public a number of American and German intelligence documents from 2002 to 2004 that showed both countries suspected I was innocent. One of the documents said American military guards thought I was dangerous because I had prayed during the American national anthem.

Now, five years after my release, I am trying to put my terrible memories behind me. I have remarried and have a beautiful baby daughter. Still, it is hard not to think about my time at Guantánamo and to wonder how it is possible that a democratic government can detain people in intolerable conditions and without a fair trial.

Murat Kurnaz, the author of “Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantánamo,” was detained from 2001 to 2006.

How Congress is Signing Its Own Arrest Warrants in the NDAA Citizen Arrest Bill

Oops…Too late.

Sadly.

Naomi Wolf explains.

How Congress is Signing Its Own Arrest Warrants in the NDAA Citizen Arrest Bill

I never thought I would have to write this: but—incredibly—Congress has now passed the National Defense Appropriations Act, with Amendment 1031, which allows for the military detention of American citizens. The amendment is so loosely worded that any American citizen could be held without due process. The language of this bill can be read to assure Americans that they can challenge their detention — but most people do not realize what this means: at Guantanamo and in other military prisons, one’s lawyer’s calls are monitored, witnesses for one’s defense are not allowed to testify, and one can be forced into nudity and isolation. Incredibly, ninety-three Senators voted to support this bill and now most of Congress: a roster of names that will live in infamy in the history of our nation, and never be expunged from the dark column of the history books.

They may have supported this bill because—although it’s hard to believe—they think the military will only arrest active members of Al Qaida; or maybe, less naively, they believe that ‘at most’, low-level dissenting figures, activists, or troublesome protesters might be subjected to military arrest. But they are forgetting something critical: history shows that those who signed this bill will soon be subject to arrest themselves.

Our leaders appear to be supporting this bill thinking that they will always be what they are now, in the fading light of a once-great democracy — those civilian leaders who safely and securely sit in freedom and DIRECT the military. In inhabiting this bubble, which their own actions are about to destroy, they are cocooned by an arrogance of power, placing their own security in jeopardy by their own hands, and ignoring history and its inevitable laws. The moment this bill becomes law, though Congress is accustomed, in a weak democracy, to being the ones who direct and control the military, the power roles will reverse: Congress will no longer be directing and in charge of the military: rather, the military will be directing and in charge of individual Congressional leaders, as well as in charge of everyone else — as any Parliamentarian in any society who handed this power over to the military can attest.

Perhaps Congress assumes that it will always only be ‘they’ who are targeted for arrest and military detention: but sadly, Parliamentary leaders are the first to face pressure, threats, arrest and even violence when the military obtains to power to make civilian arrests and hold civilians in military facilities without due process. There is no exception to this rule. Just as I traveled the country four years ago warning against the introduction of torture and secret prisons – and confidently offering a hundred thousand dollar reward to anyone who could name a nation that allowed torture of the ‘other’ that did not eventually turn this abuse on its own citizens — (confident because I knew there was no such place) — so today I warn that one cannot name a nation that gave the military the power to make civilian arrests and hold citizens in military detention, that did not almost at once turn that power almost against members of that nation’s own political ruling class. This makes sense — the obverse sense of a democracy, in which power protects you; political power endangers you in a militarized police state: the more powerful a political leader is, the more can be gained in a militarized police state by pressuring, threatening or even arresting him or her.

Mussolini, who created the modern template for fascism, was a duly elected official when he started to direct paramilitary forces against Italian citizens: yes, he sent the Blackshirts to beat up journalists, editors, and union leaders; but where did these militarized groups appear most dramatically and terrifyingly, snapping at last the fragile hold of Italian democracy? In the halls of the Italian Parliament. Whom did they physically attack and intimidate? Mussolini’s former colleagues in Parliament — as they sat, just as our Congress is doing, peacefully deliberating and debating the laws. Whom did Hitler’s Brownshirts arrest in the first wave of mass arrests in 1933? Yes, journalists, union leaders and editors; but they also targeted local and regional political leaders and dragged them off to secret prisons and to torture that the rest of society had turned a blind eye to when it had been directed at the ‘other.’ Who was most at risk from assassination or arrest and torture, after show trials, in Stalin’s Russia? Yes, journalists, editors and dissidents: but also physically endangered, and often arrested by militarized police and tortured or worse, were senior members of the Politburo who had fallen out of favor.

Is this intimidation and arrest by the military a vestige of the past? Hardly. We forget in America that all over the world there are militarized societies in which shells of democracy are propped up — in which Parliament meets regularly and elections are held, but the generals are really in charge, just as the Egyptian military is proposing with upcoming elections and the Constitution itself. That is exactly what will take place if Congress gives the power of arrest and detention to the military: and in those societies if a given political leader does not please the generals, he or she is in physical danger or subjected to military arrest. Whom did John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, say he was directed to intimidate and threaten when he worked as a ‘jackal’, putting pressure on the leadership in authoritarian countries? Latin American parliamentarians who were in the position to decide the laws that affected the well-being of his corporate clients. Who is under house arrest by the military in Myanmar? The political leader of the opposition to the military junta. Malalai Joya is an Afghani parliamentarian who has run afoul of the military and has to sleep in a different venue every night — for her own safety. An on, and on, in police states — that is, countries with military detention of civilians — that America is about to join.

US Congresspeople and Senators may think that their power protects them from the treacherous wording of Amendments 1031 and 1032: but their arrogance is leading them to a blindness that is suicidal. The moment they sign this NDAA into law, history shows that they themselves and their staff are the most physically endangered by it. They will immediately become, not the masters of the great might of the United States military, but its subjects and even, if history is any guide — and every single outcome of ramping up police state powers, unfortunately, that I have warned for years that history points to, has come to pass — sadly but inevitably, its very first targets.

LINKS:
National Defense Appropriations Act

Indefinite military detention for U.S. citizens now in the hands of a secretive conference committee
December 8, 2011 – by Donny Shaw
http://bit.ly/sxolqr