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Forum Post: Chris Hedges "Criminalizing Dissent"

Posted 2 years ago on Aug. 13, 2012, 3:43 p.m. EST by Krypton (73)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/criminalizing_dissent_20120813/

Posted on Aug 13, 2012

By Chris Hedges

I was on the 15th floor of the Southern U.S. District Court in New York in the courtroom of Judge Katherine Forrest last Tuesday. It was the final hearing in the lawsuit I brought in January against President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. I filed the suit, along with lawyers Carl J. Mayer and Bruce I. Afran, over Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). We were late joined by six co-plaintiffs including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg.

This section of the NDAA, signed into law by Obama on Dec. 31, 2011, obliterates some of our most important constitutional protections. It authorizes the executive branch to order the military to seize U.S. citizens deemed to be terrorists or associated with terrorists. Those taken into custody by the military, which becomes under the NDAA a domestic law enforcement agency, can be denied due process and habeas corpus and held indefinitely in military facilities. Any activist or dissident, whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, can be threatened under this law with indefinite incarceration in military prisons, including our offshore penal colonies. The very name of the law itself—the Homeland Battlefield Bill—suggests the totalitarian credo of endless war waged against enemies within “the homeland” as well as those abroad.

“The essential thrust of the NDAA is to create a system of justice that violates the separation of powers,” Mayer told the court. “[The Obama administration has] taken detention out of the judicial branch and put it under the executive branch.”

In May, Judge Forrest issued a temporary injunction invalidating Section 1021 as a violation of the First and Fifth amendments. It was a courageous decision. Forrest will decide within a couple of weeks whether she will make the injunction permanent.

In last week’s proceeding, the judge, who appeared from her sharp questioning of government attorneys likely to nullify the section, cited the forced internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II as a precedent she did not want to follow. Forrest read to the courtroom a dissenting opinion by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson in Korematsu v. United States, a ruling that authorized the detention during the war of some 110,00 Japanese-Americans in government “relocation camps.”

“[E]ven if they were permissible military procedures, I deny that it follows that they are constitutional,” Jackson wrote in his 1944 dissent. “If, as the Court holds, it does follow, then we may as well say that any military order will be constitutional, and have done with it.” Barack Obama’s administration has appealed Judge Forrest’s temporary injunction and would certainly appeal a permanent injunction. It is a stunning admission by this president that he will do nothing to protect our constitutional rights. The administration’s added failure to restore habeas corpus, its use of the Espionage Act six times to silence government whistle-blowers, its support of the FISA Amendment Act—which permits warrantless wiretapping, monitoring and eavesdropping on U.S. citizens—and its ordering of the assassination of U.S. citizens under the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, is a signal that for all his rhetoric, Obama, like his Republican rivals, is determined to remove every impediment to the unchecked power of the security and surveillance state. I and the six other plaintiffs, who include reporters, professors and activists, will most likely have to continue this fight in an appellate court and perhaps the Supreme Court.

The language of the bill is terrifyingly vague. It 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.” In defiance of more than 200 earlier laws of domestic policing, this act holds that any member of a group deemed by the state to be a terrorist organization, whether it is a Palestinian charity or a Black Bloc anarchist unit, can be seized and held by the military. Mayer stressed this point in the court Wednesday when he cited the sedition convictions of peace activists during World War I who distributed leaflets calling to end the war by halting the manufacturing of munitions. Mayer quoted Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ dissenting 1919 opinion. We need to “be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe,” the justice wrote.

The Justice Department’s definition of a potential terrorism suspect under the Patriot Act is already extremely broad. It includes anyone with missing fingers, someone who has weatherproof ammunition and guns, and anyone who has hoarded more than seven days of food. This would make a few of my relatives in rural Maine and their friends, if the government so decided, prime terrorism suspects.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Torrance argued in court that the government already has the authority to strip citizens of their constitutional rights. He cited the execution of Nazi saboteur Richard Quirin during World War II, saying the case was “completely within the Constitution.” He then drew a connection between that case and the AUMF, which the Obama White House argues permits the government to detain and assassinate U.S. citizens they deem to be terrorists. Torrance told the court that judicial interpretation of the AUMF made it identical to the NDAA, which led the judge to ask him why it was necessary for the government to defend the NDAA if that was indeed the case. Torrance, who fumbled for answers before the judge’s questioning, added that the United States does not differentiate under which law it holds military detainees. Judge Forrest, looking incredulous, said that if this was actually true the government could be found in contempt of court for violating orders prohibiting any detention under the NDAA.

Forrest quoted to the court Alexander Hamilton, who argued that judges must place “the power of the people” over legislative will.

“Nor does this conclusion by any means suppose a superiority of the judicial to the legislative power,” Hamilton, writing under the pseudonym Publius, said in Federalist No. 78. “It only supposes that the power of the people is superior to both; and that where the will of the legislature, declared in its statutes, stands in opposition to that of the people, declared in the Constitution, the judges ought to be governed by the latter rather than the former. They ought to regulate their decisions by the fundamental laws, rather than by those which are not fundamental.”

Contrast this crucial debate in a federal court with the empty campaign rhetoric and chatter that saturate the airwaves. The cant of our political theater, the ridiculous obsessions over vice presidential picks or celebrity gossip that dominate the news industry, effectively masks the march toward corporate totalitarianism. The corporate state has convinced the masses, in essence, to clamor for their own enslavement. There is, in reality, no daylight between Mitt Romney and Obama about the inner workings of the corporate state. They each support this section within the NDAA and the widespread extinguishing of civil liberties. They each will continue to funnel hundreds of billions of wasted dollars to defense contractors, intelligence agencies and the military. They each intend to let Wall Street loot the U.S. Treasury with impunity. Neither will lift a finger to help the long-term unemployed and underemployed, those losing their homes to foreclosures or bank repossessions, those filing for bankruptcy because of medical bills or college students burdened by crippling debt. Listen to the anguished cries of partisans on either side of the election divide and you would think this was a battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. You would think voting in the rigged political theater of the corporate state actually makes a difference. The charade of junk politics is there not to offer a choice but to divert the crowd while our corporate masters move relentlessly forward, unimpeded by either party, to turn all dissent into a crime.

56 Comments

56 Comments


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[-] 1 points by gnomunny (6614) from St Louis, MO 2 years ago

Excellent post, Krypton. This is indeed a battle between the forces of darkness and the forces of light.

[-] 0 points by Krypton (73) 2 years ago

If Hedges' "Death of the Liberal Class" is to be taken completely to heart, the real fight would seem to be for a near-total dismantling of the whole system. Treat the government like a doctor treats bacterial infection. Incessant assaults on the whole system (antibiotics), as the only way to be sure that the corruption is eradicated. We may be weaker directly after, but it's the only chance we have to actually live, and we'll be infinitely stronger for the effort.

EDIT: How to accomplish that through protest is still somewhat of a mystery to me.

[-] 0 points by gnomunny (6614) from St Louis, MO 2 years ago

That's an excellent analogy.

As to your edit, it can't be done by protesting alone, as you know. In fact, you could view protesting as the fever that alerts the body (the country) that there's a problem. And the patient must also get more exercise (getting involved and informed) and should, really, be put on some kind of diet (stop feeding the corporations via blind consumerism). The patient is a very sick puppy, Krypton. Let's hope it's not too late.

[-] 0 points by Tenacity (-36) from Hague, ND 2 years ago

I agree it can't be done by protesting alone. Our approach has to be multi-faceted, but it will first involve educating the people to our common plight....neoliberalsim.

[-] 0 points by gnomunny (6614) from St Louis, MO 2 years ago

Yes. Education is definitely the first step. I believe most people are completely unaware of the depth of the problems. I was until recently.

[-] 0 points by Tenacity (-36) from Hague, ND 2 years ago

i have learned a lot from reading this forum

[-] 0 points by gnomunny (6614) from St Louis, MO 2 years ago

Me too. I've learned more on here since last October about what's been going on than I learned in the previous five or ten years, probably. It's been an invaluable resource. I just wish it had far more exposure.

[-] 0 points by kaiserw (211) 2 years ago

All these symptoms lead in part back to cronyism, and a corrupt monetary system, then ultimately concentration of power. If you reduce the concentration of power to a low level, corruption is difficult. The monetary system being solely in the hands of an unaccountable and secret branch of government that is beholden to the banks is recipe for disaster.

Start building underground economies, (off the grid), barter, etc. LOCAL LOCAL LOCAL:

Local food, Local medicine, Local repairs/ etc Local community defense force, Prepare for the banking/ monetary collapse, it's coming. This physically cannot be kept going much longer (couple of years, 5 MAX).

[-] 0 points by gnomunny (6614) from St Louis, MO 2 years ago

Agree absolutely.

Don't forget boycotting. The almighty dollar is the only thing people like the Waltons can understand. They need a serious attitude adjustment. Don't fall for the b.s. that boycotts are ineffective unless you get tens of thousands of people on board. If you wait for that, it'll never happen. Pick your targets, refuse to give them your business, spread the word. Eventually, critical mass will be achieved.

And buy used when prudent. Garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores (which often help the less fortunate). Don't be put off by the stigma of "used goods" fostered upon us. It's yet another ploy.

[-] -1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago
[-] 0 points by funkytown (-374) 2 years ago

What would Hedges prefer we do with Al-Qaeda in the US, who have committed belligerent acts or directly supported such activities?

"Contrast this crucial debate" - is he suggesting that this lawsuit itself is merely belligerent response to his distaste of current political ambiance?

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[-] 1 points by funkytown (-374) 2 years ago

Well, my fear is that this portion of NDAA is necessary fill in the legislative void created by opposition to Guantanamo. The suspension of habeas corpus at time of war is necessary; hence a military rather than civil function - are we at war with the Taliban or aren't we?

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[-] 0 points by MadInMedford (-15) 2 years ago

If you are not one of those pseudopeople Abraxas Corp provides to promote the government agenda online then you are a textbook example of uniformed citizenry aka Sheeple. If the latter is the case, I suggest you research the rise of fascism and decline of our republic at least from PNAC late 90's to 9/11 to AUMF 2001 through the Patriot Act to NDAA 2012 (now law) and NDAA 2013 (proposed). If the former is the case, then you are knowlingly lying and probably being paid to do so.

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[-] 0 points by MadInMedford (-15) 2 years ago

The length of time someone has belonged to this less-than-illustrious forum says nothing about their education, experience or expertise. And if YOU are not an Abraxas et al sock puppet yourself then you certainly could pass for one.

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[-] 0 points by timirninja (263) 2 years ago

hehehe! Or maybe =) Fuck the OWS rules

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[-] 0 points by MadInMedford (-15) 2 years ago

My opinion is that the opinion of the mentally ill carries no weight. My opinion is you may not even be this guy anyway, because everything that has anything to do with our ongoing loss of civil liberties you try to explain away.

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[-] 1 points by MadInMedford (-15) 2 years ago

No, poser, THIS is a great video.

[-] -1 points by funkytown (-374) 2 years ago

The question really is not where is the underwear bomber but rather is there any substantial difference between the underwear bomber and the unabomber.

It's not a question of criminality; it's a question of domestic terror versus foreign terror - if there is a foreign declaration of war, then an act performed by an agent of that war falls subject to the Geneva Convention - they are not entitled to civil protections as citizenry. However, the domestic victims are entitled to a response commensurate with their view of justice; that in my mind returns it to the civil authority. And what we need, quite frankly, is a new civil court system that restricts some rights and imposes a military justice. No hangings - this is strictly firing squad stuff.

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[-] -1 points by funkytown (-374) 2 years ago

Not during time of war, no.

We're not talking about "citizenry" of foreign countries in the sense of international civil rights, we're talking about war prisoners without American rights - this is Geneva Treaty stuff - they are not entitled to multimillion dollar trials or media attention or tax payer supported life in our prisons.

Send them to Guantanamo, suspend all rights other than the cruel and inhumane which actually demean the jailer in the performance of criminal acts, and since there is no international war tribunal of allied powers, leave them to rot indefinitely.

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[-] 0 points by MadInMedford (-15) 2 years ago

Like most sock puppets you spin with the wind, ZenDog. Let's clarify things here for them and you: The primary difference between the Taliban and Al Qaeda is that the Taliban was not organized, trained and funded by the CIA.

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[-] 0 points by MadInMedford (-15) 2 years ago

"Now you claim I'm funky."

That is a lie, spinster, as anyone reading this thread would see. And who cares what "you say" about Al Qaeda? The facts are what's relevant, and very little of what you pollute the Web with is factual.

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[-] 0 points by MadInMedford (-15) 2 years ago

You are either an idiot, a clown, or an imposter posing as an idiot clown to promote the corporate fascist two-party tyranny agenda. If "boltneck" exists and accused you of same, then I agree with "boltneck".

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[-] 0 points by MadInMedford (-15) 2 years ago

Name Calling = Weak Argument.

If I am lying, prove it. If you cannot, then it is YOU who are the liar.

That's what.

[-] -1 points by funkytown (-374) 2 years ago

Geez... Look up - NDAA targets Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated organizations as international terrorists. Is there anything American that the liberal today does support? Has it ever occurred to any of you that in dropping the bomb on our people, you yourself will lose life in the process?

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[-] 1 points by MadInMedford (-15) 2 years ago

"The national defense authorization act is a budget bill. It's rather large. The portion dealing with al qaeda is rather small, and simply reiterated what Congress had already done the previous year."

The only part of your statement that is not half-truth is the outright lie at the end, REGARDLESS of WHICH "national defense authorization act" you are referring to. If it's NDAA 2012, Sections 1021/1022 threaten the rights of American citizens more so than "Al Qaeda". And if it's NDAA 2013, the domestic propaganda provisions having nothing to do with Al Qaeda at all.

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[-] 0 points by MadInMedford (-15) 2 years ago

That a presidential signing statement, fool. Those are political documents which carry no force of law. And even of they did, Bushbama promised only no indefinite detention by the MILITARY, leaving CIA/FBI/DHS and th rest of the 16 security TLAs free reign to load up the trains headed for the Montana gulags.

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[-] -1 points by MadInMedford (-15) 2 years ago

Do you really think by displaying your ignorance and then casting the reflection back on me that readers won't see right through you? Some may not, and those I pity.

[-] -2 points by funkytown (-374) 2 years ago

Is that an admission of guilt, you're a terrorist?

There's a distinct difference between the political prisoner as dissident and those who commit acts of terror as agents of war. in this case, I believe, it is has been labeled as global, self-declared, Jihad.

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[-] -1 points by funkytown (-374) 2 years ago

hell no...

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[-] -1 points by MadInMedford (-15) 2 years ago

Whassa matta? Reach the end of your script? Call MoveOn.org and maybe they'll give you one they're holding for Factsrfun.

[-] -2 points by funkytown (-374) 2 years ago

Ah come now, don't be like that - that ain't right.

I'm a free agent, a one man band, a lone conspirator... just a circus in a suitcase.

[-] -2 points by MadInMedford (-15) 2 years ago

For the record, note that pseudoperson ZenDog signed off here at exactly midnight ET.

[-] -2 points by funkytown (-374) 2 years ago

I've encountered Zen-ists before; it does not surprise me that he is so punctual.

[-] 0 points by CrepusculousRays (12) 2 years ago

Exceptionally good post!!! Chris Hedges is clearly in the know, and awakened!

[-] 0 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (641) 2 years ago

I think this case was covered under the TV show Harry's Law. Harry's Law was NBC's highest rated show, and it was canceled because too many old people were watching it and not enough young people were.

[-] 0 points by kaiserw (211) 2 years ago

"Contrast this crucial debate in a federal court with the empty campaign rhetoric and chatter that saturate the airwaves. The cant of our political theater, the ridiculous obsessions over vice presidential picks or celebrity gossip that dominate the news industry, effectively masks the march toward corporate totalitarianism. The corporate state has convinced the masses, in essence, to clamor for their own enslavement. There is, in reality, no daylight between Mitt Romney and Obama about the inner workings of the corporate state. They each support this section within the NDAA and the widespread extinguishing of civil liberties. They each will continue to funnel hundreds of billions of wasted dollars to defense contractors, intelligence agencies and the military. They each intend to let Wall Street loot the U.S. Treasury with impunity. Neither will lift a finger to help the long-term unemployed and underemployed, those losing their homes to foreclosures or bank repossessions, those filing for bankruptcy because of medical bills or college students burdened by crippling debt. Listen to the anguished cries of partisans on either side of the election divide and you would think this was a battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. You would think voting in the rigged political theater of the corporate state actually makes a difference. The charade of junk politics is there not to offer a choice but to divert the crowd while our corporate masters move relentlessly forward, unimpeded by either party, to turn all dissent into a crime."

AWESOME Paragraph!!!! Chris Hedges is one of the few people that really cuts to the heart of the matter. There's a few people still on this board that continue quibbling at fever pitch between Obama and Romney. STOP! You're wasting your time, Focus on the real issues, like this one, not the media distractions.

[-] 2 points by Krypton (73) 2 years ago

At this point, it seems to make very little difference which of them gets into office. The President (Obama at least) is apparently immune to being swayed by public opinion. Our only chance would seem to be to appeal to congresspeople to make a dent in our destructive status quo, but there's very little evidence that I've seen that supports even that course of action. What, then, are we left with? Trying to organize grassroots politicians to start populating local governments from the bottom, in order to eventually work their way up through the system, fighting corruption as they go? Total revolution? Hmmm...

[-] 0 points by kaiserw (211) 2 years ago

Krypton,

I don't think the national game is going to last much longer, It's a scale fragility problem. If you study complex systems theory, and particularly the specific properties of structured criticality, you see this as a repeating pattern in societies. (Tainter, "Collapse of Complex Societies")

The forces of nature are pushing for structured criticality to reach a natural new equilibrium: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structured_criticality

That means cascade failure to a new power structure that is less concentrated at the top, and more distributed at the bottom, like a cone of sand, that keeps growing taller.

What does that mean for us???

War? - very possible to the extent of quite likely

Break-up of the US - Highly possible, The USSR and the USA are not that different, and it's a myth we "won" the cold war, we may simply have been the last to lose.

Collapse of the global monetary system - Quite certain and imminent

Supply chain chaos, food shortages, etc - if we don't have a stable money system that get's adopted quickly, this will become more likely, and more extreme.

Practical default of "entitlement" programs - a near certainty in practical terms.

There are several take-aways from all this: don't make peoples lives depend on highly scaled systems i.e. national (medicare, medicaid, social security), they are prone to collapse, then the people lose all. It's much better to have them distributed, and localized - this creates more volatility in the short term, but you don't have a complete mega die-off when the system fails.

[-] 1 points by Krypton (73) 2 years ago

I'll have to look into systems theory. It makes sense, though, that, naturally, our current system, especially in it's exponential imbalance of power and resources, would be subject to a fast-tracked entropy. And that thought makes me smile. A little yinning after 40 years of yanging would be more than welcome.

As far as war goes, my thoughts always dwell on the idea of the "little people" essentially going up against the most devastating military force in the history of mankind, not to mention the highly armed, highly zealous, fundamentalists, bunkered in our nation's heartland. I'd like to consider reaching out to sympathetic foreign governments for aid in a struggle such as this, but am fearful of - in the case of a longshot victory - becoming a citizen of "New Switzerland" (although that might not be SO bad). How could we wage a new civil war, while retaining America's sovereignty? There would have to be a treaty. A pact. A pre-nup, so to speak. But, then, if a new global equilibrium is to be desired, redefining relationships would have to occur anyway.

I think the jury is still out on the future of safety net programs. I happen to believe that they could still work as big government, as I've read that Social Security is actually among the most efficiently run federal programs. The massive federal government bloat and wasteful spending does have to be remedied, and now isn't soon enough for that. Many outdated programs do need to be cut, but I am not an expert on this, so I don't have any immediate examples to offer.

Getting big business out of Washington is priority number 2, to be worked on simultaneously alongside huge new federal public works programs, re-empowering the unemployed millions, as part of a new "New Deal". A "Neo-Deal", of you will.

In the friendliest and most respectful of ways, I imagine you might hate that idea, kaiser.

I try my best to not think in partisan terms. I'd call myself a "Libertarian Socialist", if I had to. I believe the real solutions can be found squarly in the middle of the ideological divide.