Freedom Seven Strike Back Against NDAA And Unlimited Detention Without Due Process
Mar 2012 30

Freedom Seven Strike Back Against NDAA And Unlimited Detention Without Due Process

Posted In Activism,Blog,Politics

by Nicole Powers



Video streaming by Ustream

Above: Footage of the press conference organized by Revolution Truth in association with Demand Progress courtesy of Tim Pool a.k.a. @timcast.
(Actual conference starts at 1 min 40 secs.)

Thursday, March 29, 2012 was a landmark day in the fight for freedom as we know it. A group of journalists and activists gave opening statements in a federal lawsuit seeking an injunction against the implementation of key clauses in the National Defense Authorization Act, which has shattered many of the founding principles of the United States.

Chris Hedges (a Pulitzer Prize-winning ex-New York Times reporter) initially filed the lawsuit. It was subsequently amended to become a multi-plaintiff case, with six further names signing on for round one of what is hoped will be a multi-stage legal action. Dubbed the Freedom Seven, alongside Hedges the list of named plaintiffs now includes Daniel Ellsberg (a former US military analyst who is best known for releasing the Pentagon Papers), Professor Noam Chomsky (a renowned academic, activist, and writer), Birgitta Jonsdottir (an Icelandic politician and pro-WikiLeaks campaigner), Alexa O’Brien (a journalist and founder of the US Day of Rage electoral reform campaign), Kai Wargalla (the founder of Occupy London), and Tangerine Bolen (the founder of activist and alternative media organization Revolution Truth).

Opening statements were heard by Judge Katherine Forrest at the US District Court Building at 500 Pearl Street in Manhattan. Hedges, O’Brien, and Wargalla testified in person, and author Naomi Wolf read written testimony on behalf of Jonsdottir, who had been cautioned against traveling to the US due to her involvement with Wikileaks. Much of the case rests of the definition of “associated forces” – or lack thereof – since under the NDAA the military can indefinitely detain anyone it suspects has “substantially supported” al-Qaida, the Taliban or “associated forces.”

In a press release put out by The Sparrow Project, Hedges said: “I have had dinner more times than I can count with people whom this country brands as terrorists. But that does not make me one.” Given the possible broad interpretation of “associated forces” journalists such as Hedges – as well as activists and protesters – now operate under threat of possible detention without due process. However, to win the right to continue the court action, the judge has to agree that at least one of the seven plaintiffs has established a “reasonable fear” of being detained for exercising their constitutionally protected right to free speech.

During a press conference held outside the court at 2.30 PM on Thursday, Bolen made the following powerful statement in support of the Freedom Seven’s action:

“The NDAA is an egregious assault on our civil liberties…I approached Chris Hedges and asked him to amend his lawsuit to be a multi-plaintiff suit because the NDAA covers all kinds of people from around the world, and the seven of us who started this suit all feel we are in imminent danger under this law…

“I started an organization called Revolution Truth, and we’ve conducted campaigns in defense of Wikileaks and Bradley Manning. We also are an alternative media organization. We host livestreaming panel discussions with people from around the world. We were about to embark on a panel series with Middle Eastern revolutionaries and activists, including members of Hamas and other people [from] whom we want to hear about their ideas about the word ‘terrorism’ and the US government’s War on Terror…

“But we frankly were an international all volunteer group of about 25 people, and none of us feel safe in engaging in the work we normally do as journalists and activists. Under the NDAA we actually feel we are in danger, so we suspended our panel series for the time being. Furthermore, I’ve worked directly with some Wikileaks staff…and from the moment I began speaking with Wikileaks I was warned that all my communications would henceforth be routed through the NSA. This happened about a year ago. It’s something I’m used to at this point, but frankly with the confluence of factors and forces [of] the last 10 years of the laws, including the AUMF, the Patriot Act, and now the NDAA, I frankly don’t feel safe under my own government. I’m an activist, I’m a professional, I’m a Democrat, and I’m suing Obama over this…

“Our goal is to stop the unconstitutional provisions of this law, specifically sections 1021 and 1023, and to force the US government to better define its terms. Right now, it uses language in this law that is incredibly broad, and we consider very dangerous for not just this round of plaintiffs, but for all of us at some point. We actually think that the language of the law ultimately could be used against people like Occupy Wall Street and other protesters, so we’re determined to make sure our Constitution stands, and so does our Bill of Rights…I think we have a long uphill battle ahead of us. Obviously we’ve had 10 years of both Republicans and Democrats egregiously assaulting our liberties, so this is just the start…

“Chris Hedges filed this lawsuit because he spent 15 years working for the New York Times as a war correspondent. He’s personally interviewed members of Hamas and members of al-Qaeda, and the language of the law in sections 1021 and 1023 is so vague. It says “associated forces” and it talks about people who engage in hostilities against the United States. It doesn’t clearly define, as far as we’re concerned, “associated forces.” It leaves it so vague and broad that a journalist such as Chris Hedges, who meets with or gives a platform to people we, quote, call terrorists could end up being in trouble under this law…As far as we understand it, the language of this law contravenes three-quarters of the Bill of Rights and multiple Constitutional Amendments.”

During the press conference Wolf also spoke about the “chilling effect” the law is already having on the activities of journalists. She went on to say that her own activities had been directly curtailed, and that she had declined meetings with both Julian Assange and a group of former Guantanamo prisoners because of the threat posed by the NDAA.

Wargalla, who co-founded the Facebook and Twitter accounts that sparked Occupy London and was a key organizer of the subsequent encampments in the UK’s capital, then went on to explain that as an occupier she has already been defined as a member of a terrorist organization by law enforcement and government agencies. “We’re a peaceful and non-violent protest. Nevertheless the City of London police department put us on a list just under al-Qaeda saying that we were a terrorist organization,” said Wargalla. “I refuse to be silent and I refuse to be scared, and I would encourage everyone around the world to speak up and stand up against this law…If we don’t speak up now it may very well be too late.”

Civil rights activist Cornell West was in court to support the Freedom Seven, and also addressed the gathered press. If the group manages to establish legal standing, West hopes to sign on for the second round of action, which will be opened up to a larger pool of individuals who now operate under threat of the oppressive provisions of the NDAA. “You gotta keep track of this trial,” urged West. “Freedom is precious. If you don’t fight for it, you lose it.”

Reports from inside the courtroom can be found at Guardian.co.uk/, Courthousenews.com/ and Dissenter.firedoglake.com/.

Read the full text of the plaintiffs initial brief and the NDAA. For more information visit StopNDAA.org/.

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  6. [...] Attention shifted from the stunning view however, when equally stunning news came in that the sun was setting on the most offensive provisions of the NDAA. As CodeFrameSF read a just-in Federal Court ruling, in which a the judge agreed that the unlimited detention without due process allowed by the extremely vague and open to interpretation wording of the NDAA was onerous and ultimately curtailed free speech, a spontaneous cheer erupted aboard the bus. This victory was not only one for reason – and our Bill of Rights – but one for Occupy, since one of the seven co-defendants in the case was Occupy London founder Kai Wargalla (see previous story). [...]

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