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The Polite Conference Rooms Where Liberties Are Saved and Lost

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Posted on Mar 26, 2012
AP / John Minchillo

Chris Hedges is suing the president over the National Defense Authorization Act, which legalizes the indefinite detention of American citizens without due process.

By Chris Hedges

(Page 2)

Little has changed. On returning not long after 9/11 from a speaking engagement in Italy I was refused entry into the United States by customs officials at the Newark, N.J., airport. I was escorted to a room filled with foreign nationals. I was told to wait. A supervisor came into the room an hour later. He leaned over the shoulder of the official seated at a computer in front of me. He said to this official: “He is on a watch. Tell him he can go.” When I asked for further information I was told no one was authorized to speak to me. I was handed my passport and told to leave the airport. 

Glenn Greenwald, the columnist and constitutional lawyer, has done the most detailed analysis of the NDAA bill. He has pointed out that the crucial phrases are “substantially supported” and “associated forces.” These two phrases, he writes, allow the government to expand the definition of terrorism to include groups that were not involved in the 9/11 attacks and may not have existed when those attacks took place.

It is worth reading Sections 1021 and 1022 of the bill. Section 1021 of the NDAA “includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war.” Subsection B defines covered persons like this: “(b) Covered Persons—A covered person under this section is any person as follows: (1) A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks. (2) A person who was a part of or substantially supported Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the U.S. or its coalition partners.” Section 1022, Subsection C, goes on to declare that covered persons are subject to: “(1) Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.” And Section 1022, Subsection A, Item 4, allows the president to waive the requirement of legal evidence in order to condemn a person as an enemy of the state if that is believed to be in the “national security interests of the United States.”

The law can be used to detain individuals who are not members of terrorist organizations but have provided, in the words of the bill, substantial support even to “associated forces.” But what constitutes substantial? What constitutes support? What are these “associated forces”? What is defined under this law as an act of terror? What are the specific activities of those purportedly “engaged in hostilities against the United States”? None of this is answered. And this is why, especially as acts of civil disobedience proliferate, the NDAA law is so terrifying. It can be used by the military to seize and detain citizens and deny legal recourse to anyone who defies the corporate state.

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Torrance’s questions to me about incidents that occurred during my reporting were typified by this back and forth, which I recorded:

Torrance: In paragraph eight of your declaration you refer to the type of journalism we have just been discussing, which conveyed opinions, programs and ideas as being brought within the scope of Section 1021’s provision defining a covered people as one who has substantially supported or directly supported the acts and activities of such individuals or organizations and allies of associated forces. Why do you believe journalistic activity could be brought within that statute?

Hedges: Because anytime a journalist writes and reports in a way that challenges the official government narrative they come under fierce attack.

Torrance: What kind of attack do they come under?

Hedges: It is a range. First of all, the propaganda attempts to discredit the reporting. It would be an attempt to discredit the individual reporter. It would be a refusal to intercede when allied governments physically detain and expel the reporter because of reporting that both that allied government and the United States did not want. And any foreign correspondent that is any good through their whole career has endured all of this.

Torrance: Remind me, the phrase you used that you believed would trigger that was “coverage disfavorable to the United States”?

Hedges: I didn’t say that.

Torrance: Remind me of the phrase.

Hedges: I said it was coverage that challenged the official narrative.

Torrance: Have you ever been detained by the United States government?

Hedges: Yes.

Torrance: When and where?

Hedges: The First Gulf War.

Torrance: What were the circumstances of that?

Hedges: I was reporting outside of the pool system.

Torrance: How did that come about that you were detained?

Hedges: I was discovered by military police without an escort.

Torrance: And they took you into custody?

Hedges: Yes.

Torrance: For how long?

Hedges: Not a long time. They seized my press credentials and they called Dhahran, which is where the sort of central operations were, and I was told that within a specified time—and I don’t remember what that time was—I had to report to the authorities in Dhahran.

Torrance: Where is Dhahran?

Hedges: Saudi Arabia.

Torrance: And that was a U.S. military headquarters of some sort?

Hedges: Well, it was the press operations run by the U.S. Army.

Torrance: And what was the asserted basis for detaining you?

Hedges: That I had been reporting without an escort.


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prisnersdilema's avatar

By prisnersdilema, March 26, 2012 at 8:00 am Link to this comment

The1 percenters have long sought to end our freedoms.  First they stole an election,
then they created 911, next came the wars used as a pretext to create a state that
disenfranchised the people,  through the creation of political feer, in service of their
greed.

It is ironic, that our political class, who are little more than war criminals themselves,
seek to turn our freedoms into crimes. This is how they abet themselves, and cover over
their atrocities. Without freedom, we have become the enemy. This they know, so they
have drafted these laws to protect not the American people, but themselves from the
American people.

To continue their rule fom the shadows, they have to continue to criminalize freedom.
Why else would they fear the truth?

Report this
Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, March 26, 2012 at 7:32 am Link to this comment

‘Somebody does have to stand guard’—against the American people.

Thus far in the 21st century, the chance of being harmed by a terrorist in the United States is about one in one million.  You are far, far more likely to die in an automobile crash, and no one is suggesting that private automobiles be prohibited.  It’s not a pressing issue until we define terrorism as ‘anything the ruling class doesn’t like’.

However, it seems probable that harder times are coming, of which Occupy Wall Street was a harbinger.  To deal with an angry and rebellious populace, the ruling class would no doubt like their executive to possess arbitrary powers of arrest, detention, and execution without the tedious rigmarole of due process.  That’s the terror here, and that’s the reason for the NDAA.
 
The Man is saving up for a rainy day.

Report this

By Dominick J. Di Noto, March 26, 2012 at 7:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What I find interesting in what Mr. Hedges said and
some folks here is that they are defending or trying to
defend our Democracy when we aren’t a Democracy we are
a Republic.  There is a subtle difference is there not?

Report this

By Lumpenproletarier, March 26, 2012 at 7:08 am Link to this comment

Gosh, Chris can bring a lawsuit against the Predident of the United States, and then criticises the way that the judicial system responds to it?

There is rule of law in the United States; if there were not, his petition would have been ignored, he and his lawyers would have been thrown in jail or killed. His very existence today as free citizen, is proof that the system is not as corrupt as he asserts.

If you would like to learn about a governement where there is no rule of law, and no justice, talk to Liu Xiaobo.

Report this
Ronald Thomas West's avatar

By Ronald Thomas West, March 26, 2012 at 6:44 am Link to this comment

It is worth noting this section is not challenged on its merits in the Hedges
article:

“It is worth reading Sections 1021 and 1022 of the bill. Section 1021 of the
NDAA “includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to
detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under
the law of war.” Subsection B defines covered persons like this: “(b) Covered
Persons—A covered person under this section is any person as follows: (1) A
person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that
occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those
attacks. (2) A person who was a part of or substantially supported Al-Qaeda,
the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the U.S.
or its coalition partners.”

When in fact there is a growing body of evidence beginning with
rememberbuilding7.org and more recently and quite powerfully buttressed by a
new and very well researched exposé at the Asia Times breaking down the
insider trading profits tied to Bush people having pre-knowledge of the 9/11
attacks:

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/NC21Dj05.html

In which case Hedges is not ‘challenging the official narrative’ here but tacitly
supporting it. Given this fact, it is worth noting when a poor strategy and mis-
handled case goes into the caselaw history of the USA, it can be used by the
government as precedent to curtail further lawsuits along the same lines with
dismissals based on ‘settled’ questions of law. This next is worth a read as well:

http://dailycensored.com/2012/03/21/the-cia-and-nonviolent-resistance-3/

Report this

By dini, March 26, 2012 at 6:26 am Link to this comment

Thank you Chris for your perseverance and courage to challenge this Unjust law. 
You are an honorable man.  This law is so frightening.  Anybody writing on
Truthdig is probably on a list somewhere.  The fear tactic really does freeze people
into being powerless victims.  Silence kills.  Nazi Germany was an example of
this.  I am afraid.  Read Krugman (NYT) today regarding ALEC.  All we have left is
to stand on the side of Justice with our whole being and not back down.
Every day I see and feel the wonders of nature and I know life is worth defending
to the end.  Onward!

Report this

By Poet, March 26, 2012 at 6:16 am Link to this comment

The reasons that these “laws” are not just is that those who create them have so little or no Ethics.  For too many their motives never rise above simple self-service for profits. If any nation wishes to make or even find justice, it must seek the highest of values which are based in Integrity.  Across the board capitalism’s goals are confused with “democracy” and seldom honored.  Until folks come to value an earth based upon true equality, we will continue this degenerating spiral into “...the dream of the planet…” don Miguel Ruiz.  http://www.miguelruiz.com

Report this

By Lisa Simeone, March 26, 2012 at 4:48 am Link to this comment

“. . . whether the statute contains provision for the
accused to be able to, at minimum, rely on a rebuttable
presumption of innocence enforceable via summary
court hearing: again,at minimum.  Can you clarify
whether the statute has such a provision?”

No, it doesn’t have such a provision.  We’re all guilty
until proven innocent in this brave new world.

Report this

By Bob, March 26, 2012 at 4:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Why didn’t Mr. Hedges sue Dick Cheney, George Bush Jr. et al? If he did sue the previous administration what was the outcome?

Report this

By Suzanne Benning, March 26, 2012 at 4:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Good luck Mr. Hedges.  We’ll see if truth and justice can still prevail in this country.  (I’ve read and appreciated your comments for ten years.)

Report this

By Tony Vodvarka, March 26, 2012 at 3:36 am Link to this comment

Many thanks for your patriotic work, Mr. Hedges.  You
are one of the few that might make one proud to be an
American citizen.  Passing through security and
immigration on returning from overseas yesterday, I was
not an American citizen, I was an American suspect.

Report this

By waytoomanybottlesofrum, March 26, 2012 at 2:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Torrance uses what I call government speak. It’s a strange, semi-literate style of diction that quivers between technicality and awkwardness.

It really conveys the G-Man’s schizophrenic and totalitarian work environment.

Report this

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