Harvard Middle East expert and war correspondent Chris Hedges has announced that he is suing President Barack Obama to challenge the legality of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which Obama signed at the end of 2011. While the passage of an NDAA has become routine over the past few decades, there are new provisions in this year's bill, set to take effect on March 3, which give the military with the power to indefinitely detain without trial any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism.
The bill only vaguely defines those who could be detained as supporters of Al-Qaeda or the Taliban as well as “associated forces,” as well as “any person who has committed a belligerent act.” The bill ignores citizens’ First Amendment right to free speech and Fifth Amendment right to due process and is far from the ideals this country was founded on. As such, Chris Hedges is taking on the role of defending U.S. citizens and our constitutional liberties by fighting against these new provisions.
“The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it,” said President Obama. “I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.”
The NDAA represents “a continuation of a pattern of diminishing the civil liberties of Americans,” said public interest lawyer Carl Mayer, who filed the case on Hedges’ behalf. “It’s a terrible direction for the country, because the country was founded on the precept of enshrining civil liberties in the rule of law.”
Hedges suspects “the real purpose of this bill is to thwart internal, domestic movements that threaten the corporate state. The definition of a terrorist is already so amorphous under the Patriot Act that there are probably a few million Americans who qualify to be investigated if not locked up.”
But, Hedges is unlikely to be successful. The idea that one average citizen can challenge the president in a lawsuit and win is simply wishful thinking. Clearly Hedges fully believes in his First Amendment rights, in this case his right to petition the government, and will do what he can to defend them. But, it is surprising to see one man put his fists in the air in the name of his rights against an institution that so blatantly disregards and attempts to squash those rights.
“Dissent is increasingly equated in this country with treason,” said Hedges. “Enemies supposedly lurk in every organization that does not chant the patriotic mantras provided to it by the state. And this bill feeds a mounting state paranoia. It expands our permanent war to every spot on the globe. It erases fundamental constitutional liberties. It means we can no longer use the word ‘democracy’ to describe our political system.”
The prospect of Hedges’ success is slim. While Hedges’ effort is noble and necessary, it is nearly impossible that he will succeed on his own.
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