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Intro: "A group of political activists and journalists has launched a legal challenge to stop an American law they say allows the US military to arrest civilians anywhere in the world and detain them without trial as accused supporters of terrorism. The seven figures, who include ex-New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, professor Noam Chomsky and Icelandic politician and WikiLeaks campaigner Birgitta Jonsdottir, testified to a Manhattan judge that the law - dubbed the NDAA or Homeland Battlefield Bill - would cripple free speech around the world."

Noam Chomsky refers to the United States as a leading terrorist state. (photo: Christopher Guilfoil)
Noam Chomsky refers to the United States as a leading terrorist state. (photo: Christopher Guilfoil)



Chomsky, Journalists Challenge US Terrorism Law

By Paul Harris, Guardian UK

30 March 12

 

group political activists and journalists has launched a legal challenge to stop an American law they say allows the US military to arrest civilians anywhere in the world and detain them without trial as accused supporters of terrorism.

The seven figures, who include ex-New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, professor Noam Chomsky and Icelandic politician and WikiLeaks campaigner Birgitta Jonsdottir, testified to a Manhattan judge that the law – dubbed the NDAA or Homeland Battlefield Bill – would cripple free speech around the world.

They said that various provisions written into the National Defense Authorization Bill, which was signed by President Barack Obama at the end of 2011, effectively broadened the definition of "supporter of terrorism" to include peaceful activists, authors, academics and even journalists interviewing members of radical groups.

Controversy centres on the loose definition of key words in the bill, in particular who might be "associated forces" of the law's named terrorist groups al-Qaida and the Taliban and what "substantial support" to those groups might get defined as. Whereas White House officials have denied the wording extends any sort of blanket coverage to civilians, rather than active enemy combatants, or actions involved in free speech, some civil rights experts have said the lack of precise definition leaves it open to massive potential abuse.

Hedges, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winner and longtime writer on the Middle East, told New York judge Katherine Forrest on Thursday that he feared he might be subject to arrest under the terms of NDAA if interviewing or meeting Islamic radicals could constitute giving them "substantial support" under the terms of the law.

"I could be detained by the US military, held in a military facility – including offshore – denied due process and incarcerated until 'the end of hostilities' whenever that is," Hedges said. He added that the law was already impacting his ability to work as he feared speaking to or meeting with sources who the US government could see as terrorists or advocates of violence.

"Any kind of language in my presence that countenances violence against the US … given the passage of the NDAA, really terrifies me," he said.

Testifying alongside Hedges was Kai Wargalla, a German organiser behind Occupy London, and a supporter of WikiLeaks, which has extensively published secret US government documents.

Wargalla said that since British police had included Occupy London alongside al-Qaida on a terrorism warning notice, she was afraid of the implications of NDAA. She said that after NDAA was signed she was no longer willing to invite an Islamic group like Hamas to speak on discussion panels for fear of being implicated a supporter of terrorism. "We are on a terrorism list just under al-Qaida and this is what the section of the NDAA is talking about under 'associated forces'," she said.

Author and campaigner Naomi Wolf read testimony in court from Jonsdottir, who has been a prominent supporter of WikiLeaks and a proponent of free speech laws. Jonsdottir's testimony said she was now afraid of arrest and detention because so many US political figures had labelled WikiLeaks as a terrorist group.

Despite receiving verbal assurance from US officials that she was not under threat, Jonsdottir testified she would not travel to the US despite being invited to give lectures in the country. "[The NDAA] provisions create a greater sense of fear since now the federal government will have a tool with which to incarcerate me outside of the normal requirements of the criminal law. Because of this change in the legal situation, I am now no longer able to travel to the US for fear of being taken into custody as as having 'substantially supported' groups that are considered as either terrorist groups or their associates," said Jonsdottir in the statement read by Wolf, who is also a Guardian commentator.

In an opening argument, lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that they would try to show the definitions used in the NDAA provisions were so unclear that it would have a "chilling" effect on the work of journalists, activists and academics even if no one was actually detained.

Lawyers for Obama, and other named defendants in the case like the defence secretary, Leon Panetta, offered no opening statement nor did they currently plan to call any witnesses. However, in cross-examination of Hedges, Wargalla and another witness they repeatedly pointed out that at no stage had the US government ever been shown to have threatened any of them with detention under the terms of the new law.

Forrest will now seek to rule on whether any of the plaintiffs have shown enough convincing evidence that they have "standing" to move the case forwards. If that happens she will also then have to rule on a possible temporary injunction against the NDAA, which would undoubtedly trigger a high profile legal battle.

 

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-9 # Robt Eagle 2012-03-30 08:16
http://www.pjtv.com/?cmd=mpg&load=6790&mpid=56
 
 
+14 # reiverpacific 2012-03-30 08:57
I hope that this action and suit goes on and on and gathers momentum if this group can afford it.
But don't expect the owner-media to feature or even refer to it: they are part of the problem and marching in complete conformance with anything which suppresses real news and resistance; Hell they actually seem to be part of the covert information supply line to the Panetta crowd.
One of the most long-standing so-called Insecurity disgraces is the "No-fly" list. Remember the late senator Ted Kennedy being placed on it?!
And don't get me started on "Homeland (in)-Security!"
Again, we have to look to the foreign press ("The Guardian", BBC, The "Independent", Al-Jazeera or US alternative media like "Democracy Now" and RSN) if we want to keep tabs on this suit.
What was that about 1st amendment freedom of speech -and assembly- again? Divide and Conquer more like. COINTELPRO rides and flourishes again.
 
 
+5 # dloehr 2012-03-30 09:08
However... all these powers that Chomsky and others are railing against fit perfectly with Phillip Zelikow's 1998 essay

"Catastrophic Terrorism:
Elements of a National Policy"
By
Ashton B. Carter, John M. Deutch
and Philip D. Zelikow

The essay was published in Foreign Affairs in 1998. Zelikow's academic background is in studying and creating public myths that allow a government to get away with horrible schemes that might cause a revolution if the plot were exposed.
 
 
-22 # joehonick@gmail.com 2012-03-30 09:13
Chomsky would be far more credible if he had had the decency to registert even one comment about rising impact of Muslim anti-Semitism in France and elsewhere.
Apparently ashamed of his Jewishness, he is more comfortable ego-tizing elsewhere. Where has he been with Syrian slaughters, Toulouse Jewish kids murdered and other areas? He is a linguistic genius and a humanistic fraud.
 
 
+12 # reiverpacific 2012-03-30 10:50
Quoting joehonick@gmail.com:
Chomsky would be far more credible if he had had the decency to registert even one comment about rising impact of Muslim anti-Semitism in France and elsewhere.
Apparently ashamed of his Jewishness, he is more comfortable ego-tizing elsewhere. Where has he been with Syrian slaughters, Toulouse Jewish kids murdered and other areas? He is a linguistic genius and a humanistic fraud.

Chomsky is not perfect but if you listen to his (admittedly dryly delivered) lectures, he touches on many of these subjects; Check out David Barsamean's "Alternative Radio" archives for sources of discussion on these and other issues in depth by Chomsky and many, many others (Tariq Ali is probably the main source of the particular subjects you question).
Anyway, we are here to discuss subject matter; Chomsky has proved his worth, credibility and temerity for decades, including being jailed for leading a tax revolt during the Vietnam war and at subsequent time of conflict! Have YOU ever put yourself on the line for a conviction? (I have many times); it's easy to howl or even mutter from the sidelines or hurl abuse without any illuminating ideas, like the other reactionaries who post here at times.
 
 
+8 # Kootenay Coyote 2012-03-30 10:25
The US Fascist cabal is following Hitler’s admirable example: seize power constitutionall y by means of execrable laws. We all know, or should know, what happened next....
 
 
+6 # seeuingoa 2012-03-30 11:01
I thought that the US Suppreme Court
justices were the ultimate guardians
of the Constitution.

How come they are not screaming in
uproar over the NDAA?

Isn´t intentional violation of the
Constitution an impeachable act for
these clowns?
 
 
+3 # grouchy 2012-03-30 11:10
Following Hitler's path? Look at the historical records and you will discover this comment is TRUE! Look'm up!
 
 
+1 # Innocent Victim 2012-03-30 15:48
Paul Harris writes for the UK Guardian and may not know that identifying Katherine Forrest as a New York judge or a Manhattan judge is poor journalism for American readers. Is she a federal district court judge? That would seem reasonable to assume since the case is a constitutional one on a federal law, NDAA.
 
 
0 # corals33 2012-03-30 17:04
intellectuals and direct action?? well well wha da ya no!!
 
 
+2 # seeuingoa 2012-03-31 10:14
I hope that the courageous investigate
journalists (Chris Hedges, Naomi Wolf,
Matt Taibbi among others) have made a pledge, so in case one should be detained under the NDAA, the others will
not be intimidated, but will start screaming world wide.

USA, the "Land of the Free" will not dare
to detain their intellectual critics.
 

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