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Taibbi writes: "Here's where I think we're in very dangerous territory. We have two very different but similarly large protest movements going on right now in the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement. What if one of them is linked to a violent act? What if a bomb goes off in a police station in Oakland, or an IRS office in Texas? What if the FBI then linked those acts to Occupy or the Tea Party? You can see where this is going."

Matt Taibbi at Skylight Studio in New York, 10/27/10. (photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
Matt Taibbi at Skylight Studio in New York, 10/27/10. (photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Coming Soon: The Indefinite Detention of American Citizens

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

10 December 11


here's some disturbing rhetoric flying around in the debate over the National Defense Authorization Act, which among other things contains passages that a) officially codify the already-accepted practice of indefinite detention of "terrorist" suspects, and b) transfer the responsibility for such detentions exclusively to the military.

The fact that there's been only some muted public uproar about this provision (which, disturbingly enough, is the creature of Wall Street anti-corruption good guy Carl Levin, along with John McCain) is mildly surprising, given what's been going on with the Occupy movement. Protesters in fact should be keenly interested in the potential applications of this provision, which essentially gives the executive branch unlimited powers to indefinitely detain terror suspects without trial.

The really galling thing is that this act specifically envisions American citizens falling under the authority of the bill. One of its supporters, the dependably-unlikeable Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, bragged that the law "basically says … for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield" and that people can be jailed without trial, be they "American citizen or not." New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte reiterated that "America is part of the battlefield."

Officially speaking, of course, the bill only pertains to:

"... 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."

As Glenn Greenwald notes, the key passages here are "substantially supported" and "associated forces." The Obama administration and various courts have already expanded their definition of terrorism to include groups with no connection to 9/11 (i.e. certain belligerents in Yemen and Somalia) and to individuals who are not members of the target terror groups, but merely provided "substantial support."

The definitions, then, are, for the authorities, conveniently fungible. They may use indefinite detention against anyone who "substantially supports" terror against the United States, and it looks an awful lot like they have leeway in defining not only what constitutes "substantial" and "support," but even what "terror" is. Is a terrorist under this law necessarily a member of al-Qaeda or the Taliban? Or is it merely someone who is "engaged in hostilities against the United States"?

Here's where I think we're in very dangerous territory. We have two very different but similarly large protest movements going on right now in the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement. What if one of them is linked to a violent act? What if a bomb goes off in a police station in Oakland, or an IRS office in Texas? What if the FBI then linked those acts to Occupy or the Tea Party?

You can see where this is going. When protesters on the left first started flipping out about George Bush's indefinite detention and rendition policies, most people thought the idea that these practices might someday be used against ordinary Americans was merely an academic concern, something theoretical.

But it's real now. If these laws are passed, we would be forced to rely upon the discretion of a demonstrably corrupt and consistently idiotic government to not use these awful powers to strike back at legitimate domestic unrest.

Right now, the Senate is openly taking aim at the rights of American citizens under the guise of an argument that anyone who supports al-Qaeda has no rights. But if you pay close attention, you'll notice the law's supporters here and there conveniently leaving out those caveats about "anyone who supports al-Qaeda." For instance, here's Lindsey Graham again:

"If you're an American citizen and you betray your country, you're not going to be given a lawyer ... I believe our military should be deeply involved in fighting these guys at home or abroad."

As Greenwald points out, this idea - that an American who commits treason can be detained without due process - is in direct defiance of Article III, Section III of the Constitution, which reads:

"No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court."

This effort to eat away at the rights of the accused was originally gradual, but to me it looks like that process is accelerating. It began in the Bush years with a nebulous description of terrorist sedition that may or may not have included links to Sunni extremist groups in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But words like "associated" and "substantial" and "betray" have crept into the discussion, and now it feels like the definition of a terrorist is anyone who crosses some sort of steadily-advancing invisible line in their opposition to the current government.

This confusion about the definition of terrorism comes at a time when the economy is terrible, the domestic government is more unpopular than ever, and there is quite a lot of radical and even revolutionary political agitation going on right here at home. There are people out there - I've met some of them, in both the Occupy and Tea Party movements - who think that the entire American political system needs to be overthrown, or at least reconfigured, in order for progress to be made.

It sounds paranoid and nuts to think that those people might be arrested and whisked away to indefinite, lawyerless detention by the military, but remember: This isn't about what's logical, it's about what's going on in the brains of people like Lindsey Graham and John McCain.

At what point do those luminaries start equating al-Qaeda supporters with, say, radical anti-capitalists in the Occupy movement? What exactly is the difference between such groups in the minds (excuse me, in what passes for the minds) of the people who run this country?

That difference seems to be getting smaller and smaller all the time, and such niceties as American citizenship and the legal tradition of due process seem to be less and less meaningful to the people who run things in America.

What does seem real to them is this "battlefield earth" vision of the world, in which they are behind one set of lines and an increasingly enormous group of other people is on the other side.

Here's another way to ask the question: On which side of the societal fence do you think the McCains and Grahams would put, say, an unemployed American plumber who refused an eviction order from Bank of America and holed up with his family in his Florida house, refusing to move? Would Graham/McCain consider that person to have the same rights as Lloyd Blankfein, or is that plumber closer, in their eyes, to being like the young Muslim who throws a rock at a U.S. embassy in Yemen?

A few years ago, that would have sounded like a hysterical question. But it just doesn't seem that crazy anymore. We're turning into a kind of sci-fi society in which making it and being a success not only means getting rich, but also means winning the full rights of citizenship. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see this ending well. your social media marketing partner


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+50 # Kayjay 2011-12-10 10:49
How does this approach different from the template created in the old Soviet Union. They shipped dissenting rapscallions off to faraway gulags. This forced the soviet citizens to communicate their woes via Samizdat.... a quiet under-the-table news system that reproduced censored materials. We too may soon need such a system. Also, I find Matt's final line even scarier, where future Americans may have to PAY for full citizenship rights. OWS must flourish camping or not!
+5 # Rita Walpole Ague 2011-12-11 08:29
Good question, Kayjay.

FYI, Matt. The documents I forwarded to the Dept. of Justice (Google: Colorado Springs Independent, Jan. 21, 2010, "No Peace or Justice") included a written copy of a speech given by an upper up with Homeland Security, here at the Northern Command Center in Colorado Springs, the super fusion center of the nations' over seventy-two fusion centers.

The F.B.I. now, (and this is documented) considers 'terrorists' as including justice and peace activists (or as they are now labeled: anarchists - of course, OWSers are so labeled), environmental activists, animal rights activists, etc..

And, as 'terrorists', the aforelisted shall be treated as terrorists, i.e. no limits on brutalization/t orture, zero rights under gone bye bye rule of law etc.

OhBombAh's DOJ refused any investigation or meaningful explanation of this stripping away of basic civil rights. Time we all wake up to the reality that democracy/liber ty and justice for all has been turned into a fascist police state, where anything goes so long as the evil, greed and power addicted villainaire rulers have their wealth continue to pour in, and keep total power over we, the now enslaved sheeple.

Lots and lots to do to.....UNDO THE COUP!
+3 # universlman 2011-12-13 14:02
sidestepping the bill of rights started in earnest when the bush2 team determined that their opponents were "with the enemy"

valerie plame and joe wilson were the first casualties losing their rights to this sinister overreaction and no one in authority has attempted to fix this, not even (not surprisingly these days) the current preoccupied administration -
+25 # Capn Canard 2011-12-10 11:28
Goddamnit, and it is happening ... Much of the blame lies directly at the feet of the wealthiest. They want to win this game and will screw everyone to win it.
+24 # 666 2011-12-10 11:34
A defining idea about the "war on terror" has been the phrase "to defend OUR way of life"... Neither bush nor obama qualify the "our" -- you thought it meant all US citizens when in reality it meant the loyalist 1%. Matt is on the border of recognizing this fact.
The real threat is not just creating links between US protests and al-qaeda etc -- but what happens when an al-qaeda associated group/front (legit or cia-funded) says "we support the occupy movement" -- now the link is conveniently made, and every protester (which is in their reality the 99% of the global population) becomes a supporter of the enemy. It doesn't take a 5th-grader to see the likelihood of this happening. Frankly, I don't think the al-qaeda folks are smart enough to figure this out, it would take a government agency or private contractor to do that.
Remember that al-qaeda is seeking to destroy us, not just with bombs, but internally through our very values. If they can make us destroy ourselves, their job is done. The best allies they have are the ultra-conservat ive wack-jobs who see "the war on terrorism" as an opportunity to destroy our flawed system and impose something like corporate-chris tian talibanism here.
The ultra-conservat ive mind needs constantly to divide the world in to "us" and "them", and it's quite clear that the definition of "them" must now simply include everyone who's "not us".
Paranoid? probably. Likely? Very.
+21 # punditalia 2011-12-10 11:35
This NDAA is Orwellian but if it goes into effect, I would suggest that the first person to be seized under its provisions should be Grover Norquist, an early collaborator of the Taliban, whose declared goal is to"shrink the government to where I can drag it into the bathroom and strangle it in the bathtub". Of course that would create some discomfort among the Congressmen who attend his weekly Wednesday meetings since they might be perceived as "substantially supporting" a terrorist.
+11 # Erdajean 2011-12-10 12:50
A super suggestion, but neither you nor I expect it to work that way. After all, Grover Norquist is running this circus. Now, Obama -- in the midst of his so-sincere return to Constitutional guarantees, openly throws in his approval of exactly such measures of suppressing all disagreement. If I ever doubted that this guy is a Trojan horse full of terrible ideas, well,no more. Like Lindsey Graham, who, woe and alas, is MY senator, the golden-tongued Mr.O. is no friend of freedom-loving Americans. So where does this leave us? In dire peril, dear friends.
+20 # hey jude 2011-12-10 11:48
With voting rights now being stripped away or limited throughout the U.S. and Congress unable to enact laws or approve any new appointments, should we be more concerned about guarding against the terrorists outside our country, or with the loss of our rights within our borders? Our democracy seems to be threatened more by those at home at the current time.
+20 # gentle 2011-12-10 12:01
With the DHS claiming OWS can be considered and treated like terrorists, where are they with the wall street's abhorrent behavior? Terrorism defined as criminal acts against a populace designed to spread fear & unrest. When I hear that corporations are residents of Gitmo for undefined length of time without trial, I will feel safe again. Oh, and a little pepper spray couldn't hurt.
+13 # lorenbliss 2011-12-10 12:16
As I recall -- I don't have time to look it up this morning -- the so-called Patriot Act has already redefined "terrorism" so broadly, strikes and even protests can now, at the whim of government, be declared terrorist acts.

If this is true -- that is, if my recollection is correct -- all we have in the National Defense Authorization Act is the enabling legislation. Turning the armed forces into a de facto national police force complete with concentration-c amp powers would be the logical last step -- in which context the pending move to add the National Guard commander to the Joint Chiefs of Staff makes perfect sense.

Memo to Mr. Taibbi: I'm retired and you're not, which means you have far better access to the requisite sources than I do. Old newsman that I am, I think there's a helluva connect-the-dot s story here. Please check it out.
+5 # cris.ramirez 2011-12-10 16:08
You are, VERY, correct. And the "U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act" also has wording such as, "perceived threatening conduct"; which, obviously, could be and will be ANYTHING. If you look "cross-eyed" at any federal employee, including any U.S. Postal Service employee who are federal employees too, and they "feel threatened" by you and report it to DHS, which is already happening (I know because it happened to me), you will at-minimum be visited by DHS and/or other federal agencies depending on who felt "threatened" even though you didn't truly threaten ANYONE at all [FBI, Secret Service ("threats" against the president and/or the White House), ICE (for potential "illegal aliens" as well), etc.]; and, very soon, the "visits" will turn into arrests and indefinite detentions without trial of the completely innocent, presumed guilty. Many innocent Americans have already been visited and left "un-arrested" as yet; but with such laws already on the books like the new NDAA for 2012 spoken of in this article, it is a very short step to their being arrested and indefinitely detained without trial. No paranoia!
+4 # DaveM 2011-12-10 13:05
This measure could actually serve a useful purpose. Among those who would clearly meet the definition(s) mentioned here are: those who supported the Afghan "freedom fighters" (now known as the Taliban), those who funded and sent arms to Saddam Hussein, anyone who was in on the Iran-Contra deal--you get the picture. The largest supporter of acts of terrorism against civilians during the past 30 years has been the United States government.
+1 # cris.ramirez 2011-12-10 21:09
So true. The biggest purveyor of true terrorism, and the biggest terrorist organization in the world to this day, is the U.S. government. That is why the so-called "war against terrorism" is really the "War (OF!) Terrorism". But the 1% are exempt, which are all the true terrorists including most of our "fearless leaders", as well as "Barack 'Insane' al-O'Bomba", from being called the terrorists that they are by the government itself, and from being held accountable for their worldwide terrorism. They are the globalists who want to bring about one-world, "New World Order (NWO)" enslavement, and who will carry out as much terrorism as "necessary" for the purpose(s) of bringing it about, bringing it into existence, bringing it to fruition, and/or bringing it to completion. They have been working towards what they are carrying out right now, for at least 100 years, and they're in the final stage of their game plan, or "endgame", including terrorizing the U.S. itself, "We The People" ourselves, and totally locking down the entire U.S. and the other Western, ostensibly and/or supposedly "free" countries before they completely lock down the rest of the world as well.
+12 # my2cents 2011-12-10 13:17
It is really scary to leave our civil liberties to semantics. I recall a certain university calling a peaceful prostest with linking of arms an act of violence. Seems to me you wouldn't have to shoot somebody to get on their terrorist list these days.
+8 # Dave_s Not Here 2011-12-10 13:26
They're just warming up, seeing how far they can go before the guns will have to come out to control the public and defend themselves from it.

There will be tanks in the streets of America before this is resolved one way or the other. Unfortunately, tanks usually win over people with nothing but rocks to throw at them.
+9 # DanetteB 2011-12-10 13:38
It sounds paranoid and yet there are already American's facing prison because they have been charged with terrorism for defending terrorists in court.
It was only a matter of time before they tightened the law so that it would be easier to jail ordinary Americans who want a change in a corrupt government. And I won't be at all surprised if there is a bombing which would then lead to an arrest of an American. I think they are either hoping for it or they will stir it up.
+9 # Interested Observer 2011-12-10 13:52
From Judgment At Nuremberg.
Ernst Janning: Judge Haywood... the reason I asked you to come: Those people, those millions of people... I never knew it would come to that. You *must* believe it, *You must* believe it!
Judge Dan Haywood: Herr Janning, it "came to that" the *first time* you sentenced a man to death you *knew* to be innocent.

Do we stand now where Janning stood before "it came to that"?
+3 # cordleycoit 2011-12-10 14:45
And so the sleazy scum of rwh Senate and the rethug party are stealing the Right to a fair and speedy trial while the people sleep.
The people are not sleeping well; they sleep in the land of nightmares. The awake few are wary of saying what they want for fear of the vindictive nature of the Imperium and the vicious Rove like nature of the corporate brain. Someone ought wake the children.
+5 # disgusted American 2011-12-10 18:01

you say: "And so the sleazy scum of rwh Senate and the rethug party are stealing the Right to a fair and speedy trial while the people sleep."

You forgot to mention Carl Levin Democrat and all the other Dems who voted in favor of this law.

Matt Tailbi says: "This isn't about what's logical, it's about what's going on in the brains of people like Lindsey Graham and John McCain."

Granted, Lindsey Graham is a despicable, pea-brained whack job, but Matt, too, has omitted the part about most Democrats voting in favor of this law although he did give good 'ole boy Carl Levin some credit for writing it with McCain the Maverick.

As for Obama running around the country saying he's going to veto this. Remember, he's trying to get re-elected. He'll tell you anything he thinks you want to hear. That is what ALL politicians do.

If you don't get this, you are wrapped up in their political posturing game and are not paying attention to what they say and what they have done/are doing - Dems as well as Repukes.

Don't forget: They all dine at the same trough.
+2 # cris.ramirez 2011-12-13 16:53
Right on, disgusted American. In fact, it was more Democrats than Republicans in the Senate that voted in favor of this bill. Let's face it, many so-called Democrats are really Republicans hiding behind a party that gets them reelected. Yes, so true, they all feed at the same trough, the trough of corporate-fasci sm, special interest groups, and being highly financially bought-off by their money. That's what I believe a lot of the bailout money was really for, though well-hidden, to buy off most of Congress and other key people in the U.S. government, including military generals, admirals, etc., and to get them to completely support the treason of overthrowing U.S. sovereignty and independence, overturning the Constitution and Bill of Rights, support U.S. and global repression, turning the U.S. into an authoritarian and totalitarian militarized police state, and bringing the U.S. under one-world government and global enslavement. And they've succeeded, as most of the Congress and much of the rest of the government are for it. Complete traitors all; to "We, the People", to the Bill of Rights and Constitution, to the country, and to the entire world.

Therefore, the draconian bill, the NDAA for 2012, will be finally passed by the House, and will eventually be signed by one of our ultimate tyrannical and treasonous presidents, "Barack 'Insane' al O'Bomba", globalist extraordinaire and well-groomed patsy of "al-CIA-duh(!)" like the Clintons were/are.
+3 # DemocracyNeedsDefenders 2011-12-10 15:35
The key issue is that it is the accusation that triggers the detention, not actually doing anything. So the meaning of "substantive support" is simply a test of the accusers imagination. Given the ensuing lack of rights the accused will not be able to do much about it. To understand the difference between accusation and a fair trial read up on the Salem witch trials.

And by the way indefinite/very long detention of U.S. citizens without charges, rights, or trials has already happened - cf Padilla and Manning.
+3 # panamericans 2011-12-10 15:50
We are losing our attacking our selves.

It is a sick form of 'McCarthyism' on steroids.
-1 # Jerry 2011-12-10 17:08
Jon Stewart did a segment on this. He said the FBI profiling of a terrorist includes someone having a gun, someone with weather protected amo, someone with three fingers. Who do we know that has been associating with such people? Obama. The Senate has set a trap for him! Funny. Still, he is threatening to veto it for the strange reason that he says it infringes on his power.
+1 # jwb110 2011-12-10 21:12
Would the fact that all the terrorists involved in 911 were Saudi Arabian and the the Saudi Royal Family gave money to al-Qaeda as support to avoid terrorism in their homeland make them sworn enemies of the US?
as near as I can tell the biggest terrorist in the US may be Lindsey Graham for having sworn an oath to protect the Constitution and then does everything he can to subvert it.
As is always the case, it depends on whose ox is being gored.
I heard a story quoted, it may be just a story but to the point. It seems that a very zealot son-in-law of Thomas More said he would cut down every tree in England to get to the Devil. Thomas More was said to asked, "And what will you hide behind when the Devil sets upon you?"
The Founding Fathers were humans with all the human failings save one. None of them seemed to be tainted with the sort of paranoid cowardice of the present GOP/TP. They pledged their own lives and personal property and fortunes to establish a Government Of, By, and For the People and trusted that it would always make the course corrections necessary to continue. I am sure the signers of those first documents are spinning in their graves.
+5 # BellBuoy 2011-12-10 22:06
Form your local Posse, people. Create Affinity groups, neighborhood security organizations, whatever it takes to protect ourselves from this coming menace. I think CaptCanard is right that the wealthiest are making their move (to create a new feudalism in America) and we will need to stop it. Organize!!!
+3 # QIV 2011-12-11 06:04
Lindsay Graham is the one who sponsored and passed a 380 million $$ bill (supported by McCain) for Haliburton et al to build prisons (no bid, of course) to house illegal immigrants and any other GOVERNMENT DISSENTIENT. And who determines if you are a dissentient.... The Government of course with no trial.. Just like Nazi Germany in the 30's. It is starting......
+1 # Scott479 2011-12-11 09:31
This act would undoubtedly have been used to quash OWS at the very beginning.
+1 # racetoinfinity 2011-12-11 18:33
The #occupy movement (and all of us) should set its (our) protest sights in some way full bore upon this shocking abrogation of our Constitutional rights.
+1 # KittatinyHawk 2011-12-11 19:44
If a bomb was to go off, it would most likely be GOP blaming OWS or Terrorists.
They blame everyone else for everything.

People have allowed this to build and now everyone is all upset...Do something about it before all your rights are gone, duh
+2 # futhark 2011-12-12 15:58
"Preventive indefinite detention" is a concept first promoted by "Constitution scholar" Barack Hussein Obama in a nationally live televised speech at the National Archives on May 19, 2009. If Bush or Cheney had given this speech RSN readers would have ripped him a new one. Since President Obama was still in his "honeymoon" period, he seems to have been given a free pass. If we can't support and defend the Constitution any better than this, we need a new president. I signed off Moveon and the Barack Obama mailing lists right after this speech.
+2 # Buddha 2011-12-12 16:37
In a country of laws, to have a chance of seizing absolute power, you have to lay the foundational groundwork. Legislation like this is that groundwork. With all the hue-and-cry over closing our borders and electrified fences, has anybody thought that they could be used to keep people IN?
+1 # Scott479 2011-12-13 07:23
Obama has a reason for building hundreds of FEMA camps. Take a look at a Rachel Maddow from January of this year:

Does anyone still believe we have a 2 party system?
+2 # dloehr 2011-12-13 18:22
I'm reminded of the book DEFYING HITLER, written by a man watching his country's soul change. It's all eerie now, but here's just one paragraph:

“Adieu” had become the motto of the day – a radical leave-taking of everything, without exception. The world I had lived in dissolved and disappeared. Every day another piece vanished quietly, without ado. Every day one looked around and something else had gone and left no trace. I have never since had such a strange experience. It was as if the ground on which one stood was continually trickling away from under one’s feet, or rather as if the air one breathed was steadily, inexorably being sucked away. (p. 194)

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