The War on Terror Comes Home
This documentary can be ordered free. The subject is one I recently wrote about in my regular column for a local magazine.
The “War on Terror” Comes Home
Beyond writing, I am an activist. I have been active in issues ranging from work against racism and apartheid to anti-war protests, labor solidarity, issues of human rights, economic justice, and civil liberties going back to the 1970's. That said, in many ways these are increasingly troubled times. As someone who pays attention to the news; who searches beyond the U.S. and mainstream media to stay informed, I find a the news increasingly disturbing as of late. Not the news you hear about, superficial as that often is, but the news you increasingly do not hear about as real journalism is replaced by shallow tabloid reporting. Examples include the sentencing of former CIA officer John Kiriakou to 30 months in prison for revealing in 2007 interviews that that Abu Zubaydah and other terrorism suspects were being waterboarded. None of the people who ordered or engaged in torture, people like Donald Rumsfeld, have been charged with war crimes or human rights violations.
Bradly Manning also faces charges for exposing abuses. The Manning case is extremely important. Bradley Manning has admitted releasing information of wartime human rights abuses in an attempt to spark debate and alter policy. It should be noted that he went to the New York Times first but was turned away. As columnist Glenn Greenwald explains, “The government has never been able to identify any substantial harm that has come from any of the leaks that Bradley Manning is accused of and now admits to being responsible for. Certainly nobody has died as a result of these leaks, . . . the theory that the government is proceeding on is one that’s really quite radical and menacing. All the evidence indicates that he did it for exactly the reason that he said, with the intent that he said, which was to spark reform and to bring attention to these abuses. The government is proceeding on the theory that simply because the information that’s leaked ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda had an interest in it, that it constitutes aiding and abetting the enemy. What that essentially does is convert every form of whistleblowing or leaks into a form of treason.”
Julian Assange remains holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London fearing extradition to the US for his exposure of sensitive information via Wikileaks that the official press ignored. More recently, Aaron Schwartz, a cyber-activist who brought us the creative-commons and worked tirelessly for an open internet and freedom of information committed suicide because of government harassment and the possibility of a 30 year sentence. His crime? He attempted to make public scientific journal articles which were accessible at M.I.T. The university chose not to press charges and opened the information to the public after Mr. Schwartz returned it. The US Sentencing Commission, acting on behalf of the Obama Administration, insisted on prosecuting Schwartz as part of a crackdown on cyber-activism. It is part of a disturbing pattern.
The Obama Administration has also launched an investigation of the New York Times for it's reporting on the cyber-operation that targeted Iran’s nuclear program to find out who leaked the information. As reported in the Washington Post, “The Obama administration has prosecuted six officials for disclosing classified information, more than all previous administrations combined. But the Stuxnet investigation is arguably the highest-profile probe yet.”
But there is much more going on here; corporations, most recently Trans-Canada are bringing crushingly expensive lawsuits against activists using what is called a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. While some jurisdictions have made such suits illegal, they remain a big threat, as activists opposing the XL Tar sands pipeline have discovered. As usual, the infamous corporate front, the “American Legislative Exchange Counsel” or ALEC plays a big role. They recently helped expand the never-ending “War on Terror” to include citizen activists and investigative journalists with the “Animal and Ecological Terror Act” designed to protect agri-business and the fossil fuel industry against the dangers of public exposure and citizen resistance. The Act defines an “animal or ecological terrorist organization” as “two or more persons with the primary or incidental purpose of supporting any politically motivated activity intended to obstruct, impede or deter any person from participating in a lawful animal activity” or in “mining, foresting, harvesting, gathering, or processing natural resources.” This and other passages in the Act could be used to prosecute and label as “terrorists,” mainstream environmental groups engaged in nonviolent advocacy work as well as whistleblowers and investigative journalists. In addition, the ALEC legislation creates a “terrorist registry” managed by each state’s Attorney General to list anyone pleading guilty to or convicted of “animal and ecological terrorism.” Interestingly, a few years back a Freedom of Information release showed that in our area the focus of FBI surveillance was on the Catholic Worker for their antiwar activism and on PETA. These lovers of peace and of animals are the “terrorists” among us?
We are now living with the most intrusive government we as Americans have ever experienced. Our emails and cell phone communications are increasingly monitored and, outside of a few places like Rolling Stone, New Yorker Magazine, and alternative news venues, investigative journalism has all but vanished, replaced by shallow human interest stories and outright propaganda.
The confirmation hearings for John Brennan, President Obama's choice to head the CIA has brought to light the President's expansion of Executive power to include assassination, even of US citizens, without oversight as well as the increasing use of drones. John Brennan is the architect of the drone program and Obama's decision to put him at the head of the CIA is both disappointing and telling as is his echoing of John Yoo's defense of executive power expansion to include torture.
Much of the foundation of what we are seeing is rooted in Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This egregious section permits the government to use the military to detain U.S. citizens, strip us of due process and hold us indefinitely in military detention centers. As the “white paper” released by the Obama administration makes clear, this is now being used to justify murder as well. As legal scholar and editor Marjorie Cohn explains, “The White Paper allows the government to kill a U.S. citizen who is not on the battlefield, if some high government official who is supposedly informed about the situation thinks that the target is a senior Al-Qaida leader who poses an imminent threat of a violent attack against the United States. So how do they define “imminence”? . . . The very nebulous test that the White Paper lays out even allows the targeted killing of somebody who is considered to be a “continuing threat,” whatever that means. The most disturbing part of it says that US citizens can be killed even when there is no “clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”
Though some will defend this in a vacuum citing foreign “terrorists” bent on attacking us, this goes much further and now includes cyber-activists and the “continuing threat” of those resisting climate destruction or exposing corporate or government or malfeasance of any kind. Journalist Chris Hedges has challenged the NDAA section authorizing the detention of Americans without charges in Federal court. He writes, “The section permits the military to detain anyone, including U.S. citizens, who 'substantially support' – an undefined legal term – Al-Qaida, the Taliban or 'associated forces,' again a term that is legally undefined. Those detained can be imprisoned indefinitely by the military and denied due process until 'the end of hostilities.' In an age of permanent war this is probably a lifetime. Anyone detained under the NDAA can be sent, according to Section (c)(4), to any 'foreign country or entity.' This is, in essence, extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens. It empowers the government to ship detainees to the jails of some of the most repressive regimes on earth. Section 1021(b)(2) was declared invalid in September after our first trial, in the Southern District Court of New York. The Obama administration appealed the Southern District Court ruling.” Regarding the “white paper" justification for assassination, Hedges states, “What they’re attempting to do is legally justify what they’re already doing. They have argued that under the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act they have a right to assassinate American citizens. That is, to be generous, a radical interpretation of the AUMF. And so, what they’re seeking to do is legally justify, in the same way that Bush Counsel John Yoo was attempting, to legally justify torture. They’re essentially looking for kind of legal cover. I think it’s all connected. It’s all a part of this very rapid descent into a frightening form of corporate totalitarianism. And that is just writ large across the landscape. And as we go down – and they know we’re going down, these forces are cannibalistic. Forty percent of the summer Arctic sea ice melts, and here we’re literally watching the death throes of the planet, and these corporations, like Shell, look at it as a business opportunity. They know only one word, and that’s "more." They have commodified everything. Human beings are commodities, disposable commodities. The ecosystem is a disposable commodity. And they will, now with no impediments, push and push and push.”
Hedges is right and We the People have to push back. We have no choice. We must demand a roll back of Executive power, the repeal of the National Defense Authorization Act and the Authorization to Use Military Force. United we have the power to defeat the tyranny of an increasingly corporatized police state and demand real representative democracy. Even if we were to assume that the basis for a “War on Terror” were originally sound, the corporate coup has turned it against us to crush any resistance to its agenda of insane avarice. It's not about an out of sight them anymore or about defending our shores or our way of life. The War on Terror has come home and increasingly its about you.