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Why I’m Suing Barack Obama

Posted on Jan 16, 2012
AP / Dusan Vranic

Detainees pray at the U.S. military detention facility known as Camp Bucca in Iraq in this 2009 photo.

By Chris Hedges

Attorneys Carl J. Mayer and Bruce I. Afran filed a complaint Friday in the Southern U.S. District Court in New York City on my behalf as a plaintiff against Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to challenge the legality of the Authorization for Use of Military Force as embedded in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by the president Dec. 31.

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The act authorizes the military in Title X, Subtitle D, entitled “Counter-Terrorism,” for the first time in more than 200 years, to carry out domestic policing. With this bill, which will take effect March 3, the military can indefinitely detain without trial any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism. And suspects can be shipped by the military to our offshore penal colony in Guantanamo Bay and kept there until “the end of hostilities.” It is a catastrophic blow to civil liberties. 

To read Chris Hedges’ legal filing aimed at overturning a new law that would allow the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens deemed terrorism suspects, click here. To read the law itself, click here.

I spent many years in countries where the military had the power to arrest and detain citizens without charge. I have been in some of these jails. I have friends and colleagues who have “disappeared” into military gulags. I know the consequences of granting sweeping and unrestricted policing power to the armed forces of any nation. And while my battle may be quixotic, it is one that has to be fought if we are to have any hope of pulling this country back from corporate fascism.

Section 1031 of the bill defines a “covered person”—one subject to detention—as “a person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.”


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The bill, however, does not define the terms “substantially supported,” “directly supported” or “associated forces.”

I met regularly with leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. I used to visit Palestine Liberation Organization leaders, including Yasser Arafat and Abu Jihad, in Tunis when they were branded international terrorists. I have spent time with the Revolutionary Guard in Iran and was in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey with fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. All these entities were or are labeled as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. What would this bill have meant if it had been in place when I and other Americans traveled in the 1980s with armed units of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua or the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front guerrillas in El Salvador? What would it have meant for those of us who were with the southern insurgents during the civil war in Yemen or the rebels in the southern Sudan? I have had dinner more times than I can count with people whom this country brands as terrorists. But that does not make me one. 

Once a group is deemed to be a terrorist organization, whether it is a Palestinian charity or an element of the Uighur independence movement, the military can under this bill pick up a U.S. citizen who supported charities associated with the group or unwittingly sent money or medical supplies to front groups. We have already seen the persecution and closure of Islamic charity organizations in the United States that supported the Palestinians. Now the members of these organizations can be treated like card-carrying “terrorists” and sent to Guantanamo.

But I suspect the real purpose of this bill is to thwart internal, domestic movements that threaten the corporate state. The definition of a terrorist is already so amorphous under the Patriot Act that there are probably a few million Americans who qualify to be investigated if not locked up. Consider the arcane criteria that can make you a suspect in our new military-corporate state. The Department of Justice considers you worth investigating if you are missing a few fingers, if you have weatherproof ammunition, if you own guns or if you have hoarded more than seven days of food in your house. Adding a few of the obstructionist tactics of the Occupy movement to this list would be a seamless process. On the whim of the military, a suspected “terrorist” who also happens to be a U.S. citizen can suffer extraordinary rendition—being kidnapped and then left to rot in one of our black sites “until the end of hostilities.” Since this is an endless war that will be a very long stay.

This demented “war on terror” is as undefined and vague as such a conflict is in any totalitarian state. Dissent is increasingly equated in this country with treason. Enemies supposedly lurk in every organization that does not chant the patriotic mantras provided to it by the state. And this bill feeds a mounting state paranoia. It expands our permanent war to every spot on the globe. It erases fundamental constitutional liberties. It means we can no longer use the word “democracy” to describe our political system.

The supine and gutless Democratic Party, which would have feigned outrage if George W. Bush had put this into law, appears willing, once again, to grant Obama a pass. But I won’t. What he has done is unforgivable, unconstitutional and exceedingly dangerous. The threat and reach of al-Qaida—which I spent a year covering for The New York Times in Europe and the Middle East—are marginal, despite the attacks of 9/11. The terrorist group poses no existential threat to the nation. It has been so disrupted and broken that it can barely function. Osama bin Laden was gunned down by commandos and his body dumped into the sea. Even the Pentagon says the organization is crippled. So why, a decade after the start of the so-called war on terror, do these draconian measures need to be implemented? Why do U.S. citizens now need to be specifically singled out for military detention and denial of due process when under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force the president can apparently find the legal cover to serve as judge, jury and executioner to assassinate U.S. citizens, as he did in the killing of the cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen? Why is this bill necessary when the government routinely ignores our Fifth Amendment rights—“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”—as well as our First Amendment right of free speech? How much more power do they need to fight “terrorism”?

Fear is the psychological weapon of choice for totalitarian systems of power. Make the people afraid. Get them to surrender their rights in the name of national security. And then finish off the few who aren’t afraid enough. If this law is not revoked we will be no different from any sordid military dictatorship. Its implementation will be a huge leap forward for the corporate oligarchs who plan to continue to plunder the nation and use state and military security to cow the population into submission.

The oddest part of this legislation is that the FBI, the CIA, the director of national intelligence, the Pentagon and the attorney general didn’t support it. FBI Director Robert Mueller said he feared the bill would actually impede the bureau’s ability to investigate terrorism because it would be harder to win cooperation from suspects held by the military. “The possibility looms that we will lose opportunities to obtain cooperation from the persons in the past that we’ve been fairly successful in gaining,” he told Congress.

But it passed anyway. And I suspect it passed because the corporations, seeing the unrest in the streets, knowing that things are about to get much worse, worrying that the Occupy movement will expand, do not trust the police to protect them. They want to be able to call in the Army. And now they can.

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, January 16, 2012 at 8:49 am Link to this comment

Forgot to mention:  Happy Martin Luther King Day! 

Seems appropriate.  Shortly after Dr. King began opposing the Vietnam
War, Lyndon Baines Johnson—perhaps the vilest most uncouth man to
inhabit the oval office in the twentieth century—withdrew support
for Dr. King. My recollection is (correct me if I’m wrong, please),
President Johnson also withdrew FBI protection for Dr. King. 

Shortly after that Dr. King was assassinated. I’m not saying there is
any connection between the events, but the course of events certainly
does seem symbolic for Dr. King, a man who is now a symbol for peace. 

Mr. Hedges carries on Dr. King’s tradition of civil disobedience, non-
violence, and courage in the face of tyranny. 

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Chris.

All the best.

D.R. Zing

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, January 16, 2012 at 8:46 am Link to this comment

Mr. Hedges, its good to see that independent journalism is not dead yet.

Once upon a time, a free press was the guarantor of our freedoms by exposing those who sought to undermine our constitution and bill of rights, they served to mobilize the people and keep them informed of the truth.

This issue may be the golden nail in the coffins of Obama and those congressmen who seek to change this nation into something un-American.  Wait till the fall.

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By free tv, January 16, 2012 at 8:31 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

i wish you luck good sir! ndaa is treachery.

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By It's the MONEY!, January 16, 2012 at 8:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s the money too - All those government contracts to build drones and other surveillance technology to keep an eye on us. They weren’t making enough money with the foreign wars winding down, so they turned their sights on Americans, prompted by the Occupy movement. Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall in one of those secret committee meetings on homeland security! They couldn’t turn on us without this bill making the entire country a battlefield.

This is Obama’s stealth Jobs Program. Congressmen are jockeying to be the ones to bring the most lucrative drone contracts to their districts and I’m sure a lot more related technology. Just ask Max Baucus. They would all sell their mothers to advance corporate interests by bringing home the pork to their home states, and they would definitely sell our liberty without batting an eyelash. Capitalist has replaced American as the title for both parties. 

Al Qaeda is the magic word to get anything passed, however improbable they are as a real threat after a trillion dollars and 10 years of battles. The real war, as Chris says, is against the anti-corporatists. No expense will be spared to fight the enemies of the corporate state. That is why they will throw the Bill of Rights under the bus.   

Are we going to wait for the media or government to announce that there is a war being waged against the Occupy movement to realize it is going on? It’s under the radar, but you can bet the radar is on and actively scanning, even this website.

ANYONE who threatens The Empire is a dangerous person. Just ask Ron Paul!

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kerryrose's avatar

By kerryrose, January 16, 2012 at 8:23 am Link to this comment


You are rude and ignorant.  Please don’t respond to one of my posts again in any shape or form.

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, January 16, 2012 at 8:22 am Link to this comment


Thank you for the following information: “In the past two weeks twenty-
seven challenges have been filed in U.S. Federal Court against the
National Defense Authorization Act of 2011.”  That’s good to know.

All the best.


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Eric L. Prentis's avatar

By Eric L. Prentis, January 16, 2012 at 8:17 am Link to this comment

The National Deference Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA) gives American citizens the right and freedom to be killed by the US Army. “Thank you” President Obama and the US Congress, now I understand “freedom in America.” Every time a US politician, running for office, tries to rouse the audience by talking about American freedom, I hope they get soundly booed.

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By mark56789, January 16, 2012 at 8:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

For what effect it might or might not have, the first page of the document gets the spelling of Obama’s first name wrong. It should be Barack, not Barak.

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By Doug, January 16, 2012 at 8:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Pure hyperbole. 

Read the signing statement, it has as much legal weight
as the bill.  Also, this is the DEFENSE bill.  There
will be another next year.  Why not do something that’s
actually constructive, like making sure that the bad
language is removed from the bill next year?

Jump the shark much?

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By Arianna, January 16, 2012 at 7:54 am Link to this comment

Mr. Hedges, I totally agree with you.  As I stated in a previous comment, our legislators have become spineless.  Why have they not denounced our Supreme Leader on this?  It would seem to me that “We The People” don’t count any longer.  Our representatives have forgotten how they attained their status, and the
very word “representative” has come to mean “empty suit”.  It is shameful how far down we have allowed ourselves to fall.  Your actions are a ray of hope and
are highly commendable, but “We The People” should ultimately be the deciding factor in what goes on in
Washington.  The unfortunate thing that seems to be occuring more and more, is that our elected officials
seem to be ignoring their constituents.  I have sent many emails and only a handful have been answered.  It
seems that the staff of some of these officials either
don’t know how to get the attention of their bosses, or are ordered to send auto-responses back to us.  Doesn’t make me feel very confident and next to running for a Congressional seat, I feel I have exhausted all my options.  We all need to wake up and smell the coffee.  Bombarding our officials with emails and snail mail is not our only recourse.  Next time they seek re-election, just say NO!

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By madisolation, January 16, 2012 at 7:54 am Link to this comment

“But it passed anyway. And I suspect it passed because the corporations, seeing the unrest in the streets, knowing that things are about to get much worse, worrying that the Occupy movement will expand, do not trust the police to protect them. They want to be able to call in the Army. And now they can.”

That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking. They made up this law because they’re afraid of what is going to happen when we have an economic downturn so severe the anger of the people will not be contained. When they make up laws to suit their ends and shield the guilty, are they really laws? It seems to me this handful of renegade legislators are threatening over three hundred million people in order to preserve their flimsy hold on power. They’ve been strutting around, pretending to be actual Senators and Representative of the people, for too long now, and they’re afraid that soon their status will no longer shield them and their masks will be ripped off. Think of it: how are that compromised bunch of thieves threaten us with their made-up laws?
Kudos to Chris Hedges for his courage. What he is doing matters, just like it mattered when he and a few protesters gathered at the White House a year ago. Hedges is the leading voice of dissent in America today, because he actually does something to try to correct the wrongs.

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By Kiers, January 16, 2012 at 7:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Showbama is a well cultivated CIA plant same as Hillary.

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By prisnersdilema, January 16, 2012 at 7:44 am Link to this comment

Nothing that president Obama has done as president, except perhaps the
assignation of American Citizens without due process, defines the presidency of
Barak Obama as the NDAA.

Mr. Obama is the Grand Impostor. Portraying himself as a champion of the people. 
His speeches, and public persona is designed purposely to mislead, and confuse.

Like a man without an identity, who assumes the identify of someone else, to
masquerade as a doctor, or lawyer, police officer. But is later discovered by his co
workers not to have any credentials at all. Mr. Obama is an impostor.

Though Investigation later discovers that this has been his pattern all along, to
assume the identity of someone else. It is cold comfort to his victims. In this case
the people of The United States of America.

The impostor, even though he plays the role out in every detail, trips himself up,
because no matter how hard he tries he cannot be what he is not. His failures, and
mistakes eventually arouse suspicion by those who he is deceiving. 

The impostor relies on the gullibility of the public and their slavish devotion to
authority to continue his masquerade.

It is his actions that trip him up. Mr. Obama is the Grand Impostor. A man who
pretends to be president, who pretends to lead the Democratic party. A man who
pretends to care about the people, and this country. But who in effect only cares
about furthering the agenda of corporate crooks. 

He will further the War business, and to do that he will totally suspend the
constitution, without thinking twice…. his actions aren’t the actions of a man who
has sworn to protect the constitution of this country against all enemies
foreign….. and domestic….a man who loves freedom above all else…

They are the actions of a man who supports tyranny, injustice, and oppression,
but attempts to hide the truth
by calling them by another name…

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By balkas, January 16, 2012 at 7:44 am Link to this comment

having said that usa thinks [and enshrined THE THOUGHT in a constitution] that it can do
anything it wants to, it doesn’t mean that because it wants to destroy iran or china
tomorrow, that it’ll do it tomorrow. usa is not that stupid. it can bide time.
by usa, i mean 98% of its people and lead by judiciary, army echelons, bankers,
politicians, clergy, media, et al]
neither iran nor china had enshrined into a law unlimited personal freedoms; thus, in the
eyes of usa that is great evil. it must be destroyed!
it is only a matter of when and how usa would try that and not if.
thus we’ll see more proxy wars, internal destabilization/puppetizations of some lands,
blockades, sanctions, invasions, bombings, cia terror by usa than ever before.
it is a matter of conjecture whether this year we would see 98% support for the right of
the usa to do whatever it can in defense of its interests.
but it would not surprise me!

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By balkas, January 16, 2012 at 7:17 am Link to this comment

the NDAA writ is as much an interpretative writ as is the bible or u.s constitution.
this latest law could be written in ape language and it would have not mattered a
whit to the army, cia, congress WILLS and FREEDOMS to do as they please.
recall please, that usa is founded on unlimited personal freedoms.
this means [and nuking japan proves] that usa can do anything to preserve these
inalienable and ultimate rights.
the entire country is in DEEP FASCISM. and always had been—and until recent
times— along with nearly entire world.
does anyone doubt that the judiciary and/or supremes would not interpret the
ndaaa writ as constitutional?
so, what if not? what changes? thanks

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By SW, January 16, 2012 at 6:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How can we contribute to help with your legal costs?

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By balkas, January 16, 2012 at 6:49 am Link to this comment

if it be pulling back usa only from corporate fascism. that would be beautiful if
only that; alas, you can add a lot more to that. you can add army echelons, cia,
police, fbi, congress, w.h, judiciary; almost all teachers, MSM columnists, bankers,
clergy, shareholders, and even at least 90% of all americans.

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By bpawk, January 16, 2012 at 6:38 am Link to this comment

Excellent article from a brave citizen! Your article should appear in every newspaper in the United States. I am moved by your compassion and sense of justice. I just hope others are as well.  The Dems had the potential to be a progressive force in the 1970s but they have clearly come down on the side of the elites and not the common people.  I think one of the first steps to have people’s voices heard (other than elitists) is to get the law changes so people like Nader can get on the ballot and represent people who don’t want a country like the one envisioned by the Republocrats.

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By LaurenBDavis, January 16, 2012 at 6:35 am Link to this comment

Does the Act define what a “belligerent act” is? I wonder if sticking out my tongue while waggling my fingers by my ears and saying Na, na, na na na counts? I hope not, because if it does I’m in big trouble.

I wish you every success, Chris.  Next to my husband, you’re my favorite relentless terrier.

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By IMax, January 16, 2012 at 6:32 am Link to this comment

kerryrose, - “It is amazing no one else was outraged enough about the National Authorization Defense Act to take action.”


In the past two weeks twenty-seven challenges have been filed in U.S. Federal Court against the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011.

I understand you dislike being challenged with facts, however, I thought you would appreciate learning more.

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By Carl Osgood, January 16, 2012 at 6:29 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I see two problems with your complaint, though they may be considered technical:

One, you call it in your complaint the “Homeland Battlefield Bill.” That may be an accurate description of what it does, but it’s not the official name of the bill, which is the “National Defense Authorization Act.”

Secondly, the section numbers you give are no longer correct. The relevant sections were numbered 1031 and 1032 in the Senate version of the NDAA. However, the version that Obama signed, was the conference report on HR1540, which was originally the House bill, The section numbers changed to 1021 and 1022, as a result.

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By doublestandards/glasshouses, January 16, 2012 at 6:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There has to be an enemy.  Just as “Islamofascism” replaced communism in the nick of time, so we the people ourselves have become the enemy now that
al-Qaida has been “disrupted and broken and can barely function.”  How prescient Noam Chomsky was when he said soon after the gulag was open at Guantanamo that the kind of justice being meted out to “enemy combatants” would eventually be applied to American citizens as well.

I’m not surprised that the director of the FBI doesn’t like the new law.  The FBI had been doing a great job in creating terrorist cells and busting them.  Now the military will have all the fun.

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By Dr Bones, January 16, 2012 at 6:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Did citizens think what happened to Iraq would not come home to roost?  Do not re-elect the war criminals.  Throw all incumbents out.

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By olenska, January 16, 2012 at 6:13 am Link to this comment

Mr. Hedges - Thank you for your courage. We are all in your debt.

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By olenska, January 16, 2012 at 6:01 am Link to this comment

It is worse. Joe Lieberman has a new bill entitled the
Enemy Expatriation Act,(see link above) which strips all ACCUSED supporters of terrorist organizations of their citizenship, making them (us) eligible to be shipped off to the foreign torture prisons. Please call your reps and ask them to lead the fight to throw this bill in the trash where it belongs.

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By David J. Cyr, January 16, 2012 at 5:28 am Link to this comment

QUOTE, Chris Hedges:

“Why is this bill necessary when the government routinely ignores our Fifth Amendment rights—‘No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law’...?”

To remedy the impediment of the natural person inalienable rights protecting process, the Corporate States of America is removing the process.

It’s reasonable to assume that any humanists who oppose corporate-state sponsored terrorism could be corporate-state considered to be “associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners,” which are the primary perpetrators of global industrial scale state sponsored terrorism.

In 1967, Martin Luther king, Jr. objectively observed that America was then “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” America is still the greatest purveyor of violence. Near half a century of liberal “antiwar” people voting for the corporate war party’s Democrats has only changed the state-sponsored terrorist enabling liberals’ rhetoric. Perpetual war became “necessary” and “humanitarian” because the “progressive” liberals kept voting for it.

Voting for Democrats is how liberals keep war alive; keep war alive; keep war alive!

Jill Stein for President:

Voter Consent Wastes Dissent:

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By ardee, January 16, 2012 at 5:16 am Link to this comment

Kudos to Hedges for his activism. Some here love to denigrate this man for his style of authorship but he is certainly defending us all.

This piece of legislation highlights, more than does the myriad of broken promises, how truly awful a President Barack Obama has become.

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By dsmith, January 16, 2012 at 5:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How about suing the three broadcast networks who are licensed by the FCC for not allowing the anti-war spokespeople to make their case against bombing Iran.

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By Gerry Lykins, January 16, 2012 at 5:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is THE ONLY response to such governmental over-reach!  Kudos and huge gratitude to Chris Hedges and his lawyers for taking ACTION!

Everyone who speaks out based on his/her conscience is ultimately made vulnerable and the Constitution and Bill of Rights are once more trashed by the NDAA and specifically by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.  THIS SUIT OUGHT TO BE TURNED INTO A HUGE CLASS ACTION SUIT SIGNED BY EVERY RED-BLOODED AMERICAN!

Once more most earnest CONGRATULATIONS, Mr. Hedges, on this correct and courageos action on behalf of us all.

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By david reese, January 16, 2012 at 4:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris Hedges’ name stands alone on this legal complaint. 

But make no mistake.  Mr. Hedges has filed this complaint on behalf of all Americans.

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By m., January 16, 2012 at 4:39 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Original, long due but impossible to more and most, daring, just, the link between denouncing and taking action, top down as complementation to bottom up.

Chris Hedges, one step ahead, Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky united.  The weight of a corporation in brand recognition, the directness and immediate responsability of the fysical entity.

The first notable news of the year.  This is something to follow up on, get inspired by, ...long term.


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By kerryrose, January 16, 2012 at 4:28 am Link to this comment

What a wonderful idea!  It is amazing no one else thought of pushing back against the erosion of civil liberties.  It is amazing no one else was outraged enough about the National Authorization Defense Act to take action.

Do the rest of us give up our ‘freedoms’ so easily?

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By waytoomanybottlesofrum, January 16, 2012 at 4:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It looks like the U.S. is going to have a period of overt totalitarian rule, with liquidation of internal dissenters, perhaps martial law if unrest gets bad enough - the whole works. Unrest can only increase as more people drop into the permanent underclass, and the population at large is passive or else supportive of totalitarianism because they fear change.

How long this episode will last is anyone’s guess. It could fall apart quickly under the stress or unrest or war, or it could go on for years or decades as the U.S. declines but the regime clings to power.

Anyway, the future is very dark.

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By James F., January 16, 2012 at 3:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There’s a reason we have National Guard armories in every city east of the
Mississippi, and it’s not ‘cause they’re good places to hold rodeos. We have them
because, once upon a far distant time, workers agitated for better rights, and the
military was mobilized to put them down. Nobody knows that now, but that’s what

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By theway, January 16, 2012 at 2:16 am Link to this comment

It is amazing that so many people and politicians suffer from untreatable delusions…Evil cannot conquer perceived evil, it just comes back. Is it so difficult to understand?

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