U.S. anti-terrorism law curbs free speech and activist work, court told

The Guardian reports: A 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.

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2 thoughts on “U.S. anti-terrorism law curbs free speech and activist work, court told

  1. DE Teodoru

    At UC Berkeley in 1964 I found myself facing NYC Communists, all of whom had been self-conscious and fearful of other their youthful violent cohort. As Jewish kids, intellectually very gifted but unable to defend themselves against all-American bullying, they tended to be shy and retired, except when at a special program by the NY Ethical Culture Society where they debated philosophical issues. Over 5 yrs late I marveled seeing them running the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley where they brought the university to a halt, demanding “MEANINGFUL DIALOGUE.” As a refugee from Communism, I had found myself in wonder of how these my intrinsic enemies seemed to have opened America to its intellectual high point. I bring that up because, as a member of Cal Conservatives for Political Action and a former NY and NJ state chairman of Young Americans for Freedom, I had seen America as a nation where the LEFT gave us a chance at responsible debate but the RIGHT had a lot of maturing to do before it could take advantage of that opportunity. For a decade late I devoted myself to that challenge. From that perspective I must insist that today’s “conservative” is not the same as in those days. Like GW Bush, are are self-centered avaricious creatures valuing themselves by only their ability to deceive people and to accumulate large sums of money as, to quote a notion that built America: THERE’S A SUCKER BORN EVERY MINUTE. Back in the 60s such people were called “con men.” Today they are hailed as “entrepreneurs”– a French term meaning the taker “preneur” in the middle “entre.” The reason I bring this up is to emphasize how badly binLaden damaged us as a country just at a time we needed to set a new course for a moral victory with which to follow through on the end of the Cold War. I would point out that the initiator of his Jihadi movement had visited America in the 1920s and had concluded that our moral fiber is the weakest of all. Well, between our military and police national actions we have proven ourselves to be as ideologically corrupted as he had estimated. We relish the power of the highway man– now written into law. And, the peak of moral and intellectual development that JFK inspired and the FSM materialized a free speech with its call for meaningful dialogue will never be again because we live by the paranoia of criminals: we know how evil we are so we assume that since we are really the “good,” the “bad guys” Muslims must be damned worse. This gives us a national licence to literally kill in order to loot. As a result, we are destroying America to save it. The ultimate poison is that, like Mexico, we are corrupting the law in order to prevent it from restricting us. We are now almost down to one law: that of the jungle. Worst still, as most of us still toil to make things happen, corrupt minds seek more crooked paths to violate the laws of physics, seeking to make gold out of blood. binLaden triggered fear in most of us but entrepreneurial avarice in many other Americans. When afraid, people will always sense personal license to take advantage of others. We are becoming a strange mix of Hitler and Stalin simply because we can and, so far, it seems to pay those in the role. In truth, the virus of greed is killing us as a society as we become schizophrenics with no clear sense of the link between yesterday, today and tomorrow. As a result, we see no need for rules as we both got hurt and got even by violating social, international and moral rules that restricted us in the past.

  2. delia ruhe

    I wish Hedges and Co. the very best of luck — and I hope the judge does rule a temporary injunction against the NDAA and turn it into a high-profile legal battle. This high-handed behaviour on the part of Washington is pretty cheeky for an empire that’s circling the drain. It’s high time that everybody threatened by the NDAA — which is all of us, anywhere in the world — get the opportunity to debate this.

    I’ve got students from 10, 15 years ago who called me anti-American emailing me to say that my critique was not excessive, after all.

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