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The Polite Conference Rooms Where Liberties Are Saved and Lost

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 3)

Torrance: And was that a violation of some law or regulation that you know of?

Afran: Note, object to form. Laws and regulations are two different things.

Hedges: Not in my view. …

Torrance: Did the people who detained you specify any law or regulation that in their view you violated?


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Hedges: Let me preface that by saying that as a foreign correspondent with a valid journalistic visa, which I had, in a country like Saudi Arabia, the United States does not have the authority to detain me or tell me what I can report on. They attempted to do that, but neither I [nor] The New York Times [my employer at the time] recognized their authority.

Torrance: When you obtained that journalistic visa did you agree to any conditions on what you would do or where you would be permitted to go?

Hedges: From the Saudis?

Torrance: The visa was issued by the Saudi government?

Hedges: Of course, I need a visa from the Saudi government to get into Saudi.

Torrance: Did you agree to any such conditions?

Hedges: No. Not with the Saudis.

Torrance: Were there any other journalists of which you were aware who [were] reporting outside of the pool system?

Hedges: Yes.

Torrance: Were they also detained, to your knowledge?

Hedges: Yes.

The politeness of the exchanges, the small courtesies extended when we needed a break, the idle asides that took place during the brief recesses, masked the deadly seriousness of the proceeding. If there is no rolling back of the NDAA law we cease to be a constitutional democracy.

Totalitarian systems always begin by rewriting the law. They make legal what was once illegal. Crimes become patriotic acts. The defense of freedom and truth becomes a crime. Foreign and domestic subjugation merges into the same brutal mechanism. Citizens are colonized. And it is always done in the name of national security. We obey the new laws as we obeyed the old laws, as if there was no difference. And we spend our energy and our lives appealing to a dead system.

Franz Kafka understood the totalitarian misuse of law, the ability by the state to make law serve injustice and yet be held up as the impartial arbiter of good and evil. In his stories “The Trial” and “The Castle” Kafka presents pathetic supplicants before the law who are passed from one doorkeeper, administrator or clerk to the next in an endless and futile quest for justice. In the parable “Before the Law” the supplicant dies before even being permitted to enter the halls of justice. In Kafka’s dystopian vision, the law is the mechanism by which injustice and tyranny are perpetuated. A bureaucratic legal system uses the language of justice to defend injustice. The cowed populations in tyrannies become for Kafka so broken, desperate and passive that they are finally complicit in their own enslavement. The central character in “The Trial,” known as Josef K, offers little resistance at the end of the story when two men arrive to oversee his execution. Josef K. leads them to a quarry where he is expected to kill himself. He cannot. The men do it for him. His last words are: “Like a dog!”

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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

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.

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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?

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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.

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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

“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 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

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:

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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