Chris Hedges sues Barack Obama and Leon Panetta over legality of NDAA

Hedges lays it out in clear, unequivocal language: “I suspect the real purpose of this bill is to thwart internal, domestic movements that threaten the corporate state. . . I suspect [this law] 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.”

Why I’m Suing Barack Obama

January 16, 2012

By Chris Hedges

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

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.

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.”

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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18 Responses to Chris Hedges sues Barack Obama and Leon Panetta over legality of NDAA

  1. Carl says:

    It doesn’t take a Juris Doctor to see that undefined terms in legislation should be stricken and removed forthwith.

  2. Eli Cabelly says:

    Before this suit takes place, there are a lot of citizens that we can use this to throw into our military gulag. Let’s start with our ex-president and friend of the Bin Laden family, George W Bush. I’ll give his father, ex-president George H W Bush, a pass since he’s so old that a few weeks there would likely kill him. Incarcerating a republican ex-president would ensure that this law is overturned rapidly!

    • Dagger says:

      Glad people can take this seriously Eli. Wake up. This is a real threat. Hitler pulled the same thing with the Jews and now Obama wants to do the same with Muslims. We are not Nazis in America, this must be stricken down as soon as possible.

    • Please include Henry Kissinger in that plan.

      • Lynette says:

        Chris…..I agree…………I can’t believe that ANYONE can’t see this for what it is…..this is about enslavement of all the citizens of America….wake up, people!!!! This BS of Obama’s has gone on for 3 years, and it’s time for it to stop!!!!

  3. beatricehouse says:

    Clinton said if the shxx hit the fan he would have every citizen bring their guns to the local police station and everyone i beddie bye by 10PM (lockdown curfew). And now with drones the non-obeyers could just be tazed and held. So be careful who we vote for? Perry would be on live TV throwing his gun in the police bin and smiling. Believe you me. Even a glock won’t beat a drone.

  4. robert coyle says:

    the status quo is shaking in their boots right now. for too long the masses have been shafted by predatory corporate forces forcing this country into a degenerative slave state. this has nothing to do with foreign terrorists, it has to do with the rising discontent that is happening on a global scale. we vastly outnumber them .all empires go into a waining stage and this is just the beginning.

  5. jamie says:

    i have my doubts on this caue where are all the other lawyers and civil liberty group wh now and why chris hayes ?????? i’m interested in how this plays out and it very well possible obama rathr has the courts deal this out! he did throw the signing statement on it !!!!

    • You might want to search for other Chris Hedges posts on this site. He’s a Pulitzer Prize winner who has written quite a number of times for truthdig.com, and I tend to repost everything I can get my hands on. I consider him the “Bard of Occupy.” He was a war correspondent for over twenty years for the New York Times. He has balls. He used to be a boxer! I imagine the ACLU is trying to come to terms with the NDAA too, but Hedges got ahead of the pack. He was primed for it, given his point of view, and his relationship with the history of social justice movements in the 20th century, all over the world. He knows that Occupy has what it takes. And he wants to help. That’s my take on it anyhow.

  6. Marco Holt says:

    Thank you!!!

  7. Emily says:

    “We must hand together or assuredly we will hang separately.”

  8. Frank Reggero says:

    This article is horseshit! Fear mongering in this country needs to stop…. Although we are in trying times, the last thing we need is to question the intent of the people responsible for protecting the little freedom we have left…The NDAA reads and I copy and paste the same Title, and subsection from the bill itself; “Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.” Stop the BS and get the facts! Be careful who you listen to without doing the research yourself!

    • Perhaps you should re-read it. Those words are different in one section. and it also allows the president to override it, if he chooses.

      • Lynette says:

        @ Frank Reggero………”the last thing we need is to question the intent of the people responsible for protecting the little freedom we have left”……I considered laughing my ass off over that asinine remark……but then realized you’re SERIOUS!!!!!!

    • Alexander Illi says:

      Oh, it’s so heartwOrming how nearly everyone from US, even the soca ‘human rights activists’, are worried whether it would also affect “citizens of the US” –
      nevermind those foreign citizens in secret CIA/military-prisons and CIA/military-graves—

  9. ipollnews says:

    I suspect this will go the way of Jesse Ventura’s suit against the TSA.

  10. Politics make strange bed fellows….Overturning the NDAA Legislation is a link issue that brings together the original members (before the top-down agenda writers took it over) of The Tea Party linked in purpose with the enlightened minds behind the core (horizontal-democratic-leaderless and peaceful) actions of the OWS – Movement . Is there anyone who can find it in their heart to nurture that apparent energy into a political marriage? Hopefully Chris’s reach will broaden into a wider circle of supporters at some phase, to offset having to “take sides.” Partisanship is an ugly beast and seems to always win out in the end … but maybe not this time. This time the good wins.

    Chris’s lawsuit timeline likely as not runs through the great convergence of possible timelines of reality of Dec 21, 2012. The energy needed to take us through the convergence and out the other side into the higher consciousness of the enlightenment seems inherent in Chris’s spirit and his timing, as though a voice is speaking to us from the other side. It seems especially relevant that Chris is not a political candidate for anything except truth.

    My intuition is to daily think very lovingly for Chris as we all travel through together and for a peaceful collapse of partisan rancor coupled with the sweet smell of an emergence of love. The good wins.

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