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The Polite Conference Rooms Where Liberties Are Saved and Lost
Posted on Mar 26, 2012
By Chris Hedges
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: 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?
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?
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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