Dec 162011
 

If the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is signed into law it will codify something that for the most part, we have been doing already: select anyone, anywhere in the world, who by a simple decree by the president would be identified as a terrorist. Once done, that person would be subject to indefinite detention without due process. By stating that the US is a battlefield of the war on terror it can be interpreted as including US citizens as enemy combatants. This is of course is not what the framers of the constitution had in mind when they said the State can’t deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

It is my contention that this or some future president could easily decide that all or a selected few Occupy activists threaten national security enough to be considered terrorists. Some politicos and pundits no doubt already do.

Does anyone believe that the big banks and major defense contractors that have a stranglehold on our government would hesitate to call the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement a terrorist group? The protesters have made clear that they want the whole system of crony capitalism dismantled and for the top executives who have committed fraud to be prosecuted. This is not only about profits and specific players. OWS threatens their very existence. To the big banks, the OWS activists are terrorists.

There are a host of critical issues confronting the U.S. right now. Many of these problems are currently being highlighted by the Occupy movement. The impact of money in politics is key. As long as our legislators can be bought by corporate interests, the other important problems facing our country will not be successfully addressed. Only (rarely if ever) when our interests overlap with corporate interests, can we expect to get any more than a token of what we need, what our country needs.

The fight to get money out of politics is being fought on multiple fronts. This includes several constitutional amendment attempts. The Occupy movement, by applying pressure has made this issue front and center, which helps in these efforts. The protesters, by their willingness to get arrested, keeps this struggle in the news.

After trying desperately to ignore them, with few exceptions, the main stream media (MSM) has consistently criticized and/or marginalized the protesters. Never-the-less, by creatively being “newsworthy” the OWS activists have forced themselves into the news that most Americans see. Help from Officer Balogna and others is gratefully acknowledged.

The MSM left to their own devices, without motivating pressure would declare that the movement has faded out (which they will gleefully declare that they had predicted). Ultimately, not one of the US major media outlets would be covering this uprising. This would result in the majority of people in the US being completely unaware of the scope of day to day events. After all, the vast majority of Americans still believe that they get a balanced view on the 6pm news (or Fox “News” for that matter). Alternative media is great and growing in importance, but falls short of the reach and winning the loyalty and trust of the viewers that the MSM inexplicably has. Can the fate of a return to being under the radar for the majority of Americans be in the future of Occupy? I think it can. The NDAA may make this possible.

Amendments to the NDAA, which removed the language that makes indefinite detention for American citizens have not passed. We have been betrayed by our (so called) representatives and the NDAA will pass easily. President Obama had said he would veto the bill unless changes were made. A joint congressional committee has made minor adjustments without removing the language that allows citizens of any country to be detained anywhere and held indefinitely without due process.

Civil liberties and human rights organizations are opposing even the modified version and feel that U.S. citizens are not adequately protected. I will go a bit farther: the changes are a joke. Basically, all they do is shift the decision making, of who is or is not a terrorist from the Department of Defense to the President. Apparently, Obama’s veto threat was not due to the civil rights concerns but was over his own loss of authority that he feared the legislation would have codified.

Consider the potential dire consequences of this law. We are rightfully outraged when someone from OWS is held for more than a day or two. (Not to infer that being arrested at all should be considered acceptable.) However if the NDAA becomes law, it means that once determined to be a threat to national security (without even the formality of a court hearing), the military could grab you off the street and hold you indefinitely until, as stated in the NDAA: the “cessation of hostilities.” In other words, to disappear you. A citizen abroad would likely be at even greater risk.

Present and former generals and admirals have said that it will not only put our civil liberties at risk but weaken our national security. Codifying the right to capture and detain anyone, anywhere in the world on the suspicion of being a terrorist should give other countries legitimate concerns. It’s as if our government is suffering from delusions of grandeur and is oblivious that other nations could possibly have strong feelings about their own sovereignty. Or more ominously, to not give a damn (I suspect a combination of the two). Our so called “war on terror” requires the cooperation of other countries. Besides, alienating as many countries in the world as we can, seems like a pretty poor foreign policy strategy.

If you should make the terrorist list, under current law, anyone giving you material support can be prosecuted. Once a single OWS protester is deemed a terrorist, it will have a chilling effect on people donating money or supplies or giving shelter to OWS. What if someone that benefited from your donation was later deemed a terrorist?

The protesters have bravely faced police brutality and arrest. But I can’t help but wonder, what would happen if protesters knew that they risk being sent to a military prison for an indeterminate period of time? I don’t think I’m overstating the case that if enacted it could effectively crush the OWS movement or for that matter, any future dissent. At least until people get sick and angry enough to willingly risk long term imprisonment or even being killed. This is exactly what the courageous people of the Arab Spring have had to confront. And make no mistake, the militarizing of local law enforcement is bad, but to engage the actual military within our borders will surely result in deaths. 

Our only immediate chance seems to be for President Obama to veto this bill. Courage and conviction would be required in the face of the criticism that will result from stopping one of the rare bipartisan efforts of this congress. Accusations of being soft on terrorism will come at the president from all of the usual suspects as well as others. Considering his past actions like sending drones to assassinate US citizens, I don’t hold out much hope. Short of a veto, it will require someone to be detained by the military in order to begin the process of challenging it in the courts.

Only with the advent of the Occupy movement, have I found something to be hopeful about. Naturally, I feel very protective of the brave souls that speak out under the threat of abuse and arrest. The thought that they could face an even more severe response is something we should all work to avoid.

I strongly suggest that we all flood the White House with calls and emails to voice our support for a presidential veto (202-456-1111, email the President). No doubt some will scoff at this, but in the current election season, letting Obama know how unpopular this is could have the desired effect. Perhaps more importantly, those of you who have delayed direct action… find an OWS action. The next weeks or months may well be your last chance to do so without being confronted by the military. Considering the training our armed forces receive, we should have little doubt how that will turn out.

Read more about the NDAA at: RSN

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