William Hamilton: Strange bedfellows, in righteous agreement
May 22, 2012
Last week saw another setback for the Obama administration.
Led by Pulitzer Prize-winner journalist Christopher Hedges, a group of plaintiffs that includes, among others: Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg; M.I.T. professor and American dissident Noam Chomsky; several Occupy groups, and U.S. Day of Rage, won a temporary injunction against part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed by President Obama on Dec. 31, 2011. Ironically, this set of plaintiffs would generally be regarded as part of President Obama’s left-wing political base.
A further irony is that several conservative groups filed amicus (friend) briefs in support of the liberal plaintiffs. They are: the Gun Owners Foundation, Gun Owners of America Inc., Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund, Restoring Liberty Action Committee, the Tenth Amendment Center, and the Center for Media and Democracy.
On May 16, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest suspended the enforcement of Section 1021 of the NDAA. Here is the language of Section 1021:
“… The President has the authority to detain persons that the President determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, and persons who harbored those responsible for those attacks. The President also has the authority to detain persons who were part of or substantially supported Taliban or al-Qaida forces or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act, or has directly supported hostilities, in the aid of such enemy forces …”
The plaintiffs argued that Section 1021 was vague to the point that the President could have virtually anyone picked up off of American streets by the U.S. military and taken to Club Gitmo for an indefinite, “throw-away-the-key” stay in the tropics. In agreeing with the plaintiffs, Judge Forrest found that terms such as: “substantially supported,” “directly supported,” or “associated forces” were not clearly defined.
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The plaintiffs convinced Judge Forrest that fear of the federal government caused them to cease the pursuit of certain stories and activities that the plaintiffs feel are protected by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Judge Forrest said, “An individual could run the risk of substantially supporting or directly supporting an associated force without even being aware that he or she was doing so.”
While the fears of the plaintiffs might seem academic to some readers, there are some real, close-to-home reasons to share their concerns. For example, let’s say you get curious about what Timothy McVeigh used to blow up the federal center in Oklahoma City. You look it up on the Internet. Or, let’s say you write espionage thrillers. In the pursuit of accuracy, you search the Internet for information about explosives, weapons, knock-out drops, lock-picking, listening devices, and other tools of the espionage trade.
Oops. Whenever your computer connects to the Internet, it is possible for someone near Washington, D.C., or even Beijing or Moscow, to monitor your every key stroke. (Dear Big Sis: Relax. This writer is dedicated to the defense of the USA and is on your side. Please do not send a black helicopter or even a drone.)
As much as most people want Islamic or, for that matter, all terrorists brought to justice, giving Big Sis the opportunity to nullify the protections of the First, Second, and Fourth Amendments is not a good idea. Thankfully, there are still times when the strange bedfellows of the Left and the Right can join together for the protection of us all.
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