The US Administration has the legislation (National Defense Authorization Act) in place to allow it to seek the extradition and indefinite detention of anyone in the world it perceives to be acting against US interests, or is reporting on or revealing information against US interests, or is regarded as an ‘enemy of the state’, or is a supporter of an ‘enemy of the state’. It could be applied, for example, against Wikileaks supporters/organisers, or citizen or mainstream journalists, or political dissidents generally. Or you. And if you are not a US citizen you could be subject to extradition proceedings and held on an offshore facility – e.g. Guantanamo.
Already the legislation is being used in the USA to criminalize anyone who gets in the way – for example:
1. The ‘Portland Three’ – Leah-Lynne Plante, Matt Duran and Katherine Olejnik were arrested after a raid by the FBI for simply being at a demonstration in Seattle. Matt and Katherine are still in prison. Why? Because they have been identified as anarchists – i.e. they wear black clothes, carry banners, etc – and have refused to talk about who may have been involved in the politically motivated vandalism in downtown Seattle on May Day when activists smashed out the windows of several banks and stores—including Wells Fargo and Niketown — as well as a federal courthouse door. Matt and Katherine could face indefinite detention until, that is, they decide to testify.
2. Bradley Manning has been held in custody for 875 days without a proper trial. He is a soldier accused of leaking US war crimes.
3. Alexa O’Brien is a journalist and has been documenting the developments in the pre-trial hearings of Bradley Manning and the developments re. the Wikileaks Grand Jury. Recently Alexa was threatened with indefinite detention under the NDAA legislation. Why? Because she is also involved in a project to change the funding of political campaigns in America.
The NDAA may also be applied as part of the prosecution currently under way via the secret Wikileaks Grand Jury against Julian Assange and, similarly, against anyone – e.g. bloggers or twitters – who expose US Government dealings that are not meant for public consumption. Far-fetched? Well, Icelandic MP, Birgitta Jonsdittir, a Wikileaks supporter, has received legal advice to be wary of visiting the US as she may be arrested for having simply expressed her views (she is also currently challenging the NDAA legislation – see below).
But, assuming this legislation is not halted through legal means, does that mean that anyone critical of the USA should be in fear of arrest from now on? Yes – if your criticisms are perceived to be a threat – though bullies can be dealt with if enough of the bullied stand together and resist. So, one possible outcome of this pre-totalitarian lurch by the US authorities is that the current torrent of leaks published via channels such as Wikileaks and Anonymous will become a deluge, so making the legislation unworkable. (And, some may argue, if SOPA and PIPA could be stopped by concerted action (an Internet strike ) then the NDAA can also be stopped.) And how might this happen? The answer is simple: by journalists – ‘mainstream’ or ‘alternative’ – taking a united stand with Wikileaks and their kind and making it clear they will not allow this erosion of our liberties to continue.
It is time to open the floodgates.
Quotes on the NDAA:
“For the first time in American history, we have a law authorizing the worldwide and indefinite military detention of people captured far from any battlefield. The NDAA has no temporal or geographic limitations. It is completely at odds with our values, violates the constitution, and corrodes our nation’s commitment to the rule of law.” American Civil Liberties Union.
“The NDAA gives the federal government the power to behave like dictators and arrest any American citizen, or anyone for that matter, without warrant and indefinitely detain them in offshore prisons without charge and keep them there until the ‘end of hostilities,’”. Former CNN correspondent, Amber Lyon,
“I have discussed the terms of the Homeland Battlefield Bill – also known as the National Defense Authorization Act – with numerous other journalists, writers, and members of democracy-supporting organizations across the political spectrum. I have also discussed the bill with various political leaders, including city council members and legislators, who span the political spectrum in the United States. They all agree that the bill can potentially affect an American journalist who meets with and publishes reports on individuals connected to organizations deemed terrorist by the United States government.” Naomi Wolf, journalist.
Timeline of the legislation:
The NDAA was passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and was signed into law by President Obama on December 31, 2011. The controversy has been over a clause – Section 1021(b)(2) – which basically allows indefinite detention of anyone who commits a “belligerent act” against the U.S. or its coalition allies in aid of enemy forces, under the law of war, “without trial, until the end of the hostilities”. The text authorizes trial by military tribunal, or “transfer to the custody or control of the person’s country of origin”, or transfer to “any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity”.
In May of this year, Icelandic MP and Wikileaks activist, Birgitta Jonsdottir, together with Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg and other activists, and with support from Michael Moore, joined together to sue the United States government to stop the implementation of the NDAA. Note that Birgitta could not attend in person in the United States as she had received legal advice that she may be arrested on entering the country, so Naomi Wolf read her testimony in court in her stead.
The result of the hearing was that the court agreed to a temporary injunction, preventing the legislation from being implemented. On September 12, 2012, the courts agreed to grant a permanent injunction against Section 1021(b)(2). However, the US Government filed an appeal and requested a stay of execution on the injunction. This month, a stay against the permanent injunction was granted by a three judge motions panel of the Second District US Court of Appeals, pending appeal on the merits. Appeal briefs are due to the court on November 2 and December 3. The Government then has until December 13 to file their brief in reply.
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