Thursday, December 1, 2011

Can you PLEASE give a shit about the National Defense Authorization Act? PLEASE?

By the end of the week, our government will have voted on whether or not to grant the power to lawfully detain American citizens for any length of time whatsoever, without a trial or any charges being filed at all. 

Think about that for a minute.

If the National Defense Authorization Act passes as written, our government will be able to lock up any citizen for any reason, for as long as they want, without having to grant us access to a lawyer, without ever pressing charges and without ever giving us a trial of any kind.  Basically, this not only eliminates habeas corpus - which is the law that states one must be brought before a judge and have it be determined whether there is any lawful justification to detain you - but it essentially gives our government the authority to grab anyone off the streets that they feel is a "threat" and hold them, without trial, without ever charging them with anything, without any kind of due process under law, potentially for the rest of their lives.

Why should you care?

Well, maybe you support OWS.  Maybe you have posted some comments on Facebook or Twitter.  Maybe you have criticized the way our government is treating the protesters.  Perhaps you have linked articles that are critical of the government and its actions towards OWS.  Maybe you have been critical of certain powerful organizations and corporations who wield a significant amount of influence over our politicians.  Under the proposed NDAA, the government - through any of its defense agencies - can deem you to be an "antagonist" or a "potential security threat" and, next thing you know, a black SUV shows up at your house and you're grabbed, thrown in the back and shipped off to Guantanamo, never to be heard from again.

Think that's "crazy, paranoid" talk?  Consider what recently happened to Emma Sullivan.

Emma Sullivan is an 18-year old girl from Kansas who recently landed in the news after she posted a comment on her Twitter account about Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.  She was attending a speech by the governor when she made a snarky comment about him on her Twitter page.  Unfortunately for her, Gov. Brownback has a full staff that monitors all Facebook and Twitter posts about him.  Never mind the astounding fact that a public official has a full staff - paid for with tax dollars - to make sure nobody is talking smack about him on the Internet, which is in itself something that should cause any sensible American outrage, once they discovered Ms. Sullivan's comment, they contacted her school and told them to force Emma to remove her comment and write the governor a letter of apology.  Fortunately, Emma Sullivan is nobodies bitch, least of all Gov. Brownback's.  After defiantly refusing to apologize for anything and bringing a lot of media attention to the whole situation, the school board retracted it's insistence that she apologize and, ironically, it was Brownback's own office who ended up apologizing to Emma - albeit through a statement to the media.

Now, replay that scenario in a post-NDAA world...

Emma Sullivan writes a negative comment about the governor.  The governors full staff of Internet watchdogs catches her comment.  Gov. Brownback decides that Emma's comments could be taken as a threat or an incitement of civil disobedience against the Governors office and possibly the entire state of Kansas.  Gov. Brownback orders Emma to remove her comment and apologize - she refuses.  Now, the Governors office determines her to, in fact, be a dissident who is making "hate speech" against a public figure.  They don't need to prove any violation of the law, they don't need to press formal charges, they don't even need to make sure a single one of her constitutional rights is protected, they simply forward her name to the Dept. of Homeland Security and say that she made a threatening statement about the Governor and that's all it would take to have her arrested and detained for, I don't know, 5, 10, 15 years?  Meanwhile, due to the massive blackout that surrounds places like Abu Ghraib, it would be almost impossible for any independent news or investigative team to determine where she was being held or if she was even alive at all.

Sound a little far-fetched?  It's not.  But, ok, I'll humor your skepticism.  Let's play out a much more likely scenario - and the reason these deliberate constitutional violations are included in the NDAA:

You know the now-infamous police reaction to the OWS protesters at UC Davis?  Well, under the NDAA, all of those protesters - as well as all the OWS protesters in every city across the country - could just be arrested and detained indefinitely for creating a disturbance and posing a threat to national security. 

"But they don't pose any threat to national security at all, they're just protesting, which is a constitutionally-protected right."

Except when you pass an act which supersedes the constitution.  Doesn't matter if these protesters pose any real threat at all, they can - and will - be arrested and detained without a trial, without formal charges, without being able to see a judge, without legal representation or any other right that we take for granted as American citizens.  Those who are found to just be "dumb, harmless participants" will likely be let go eventually with a scary life lesson about what happens when you dare to step out of line in "the land of the free".  Those who are determined to be "leaders" of the movement, well, we probably won't hear from them again...

"Ok, fine, but I'm a conservative.  I don't care about OWS and as far as I'm concerned, they deserve to be in jail for all the horrible things Fox News tells me they're doing in these cities."

There is a famous poem, attributed to a pastor named Martin Niemoller, about the complacency of German citizens following the Nazis rise to power and their systematic purging of different groups that were found to pose a "threat" to the new government:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
 The same people who will say that they don't care what happens to a bunch of smelly OWS protesters, because they don't identify with them or agree with them are the same people who didn't care when it was revealed that the government has been illegally wiretapping phone calls and monitoring Internet activity of U.S. citizens to try and catch suspected terrorists.  Oh, it's fine to violate the civil rights of people suspected of terrorism because they're dangerous and we have to do stuff like this to prevent another 9/11! 

But then the news reports have been streaming out over the past few years, about men and women who have been yanked off of planes and held for months, even years, at detention centers all over America and Guantanamo Bay.  They were never charged with any crime, their only offense was being Muslim or middle-eastern - even if they only appeared to be middle-eastern to some idiot who couldn't tell the difference - and some paranoid bigot on a plane reported them acting "suspiciously" to a flight attendant and that was all she wrote.  There have been stories of Muslim men and women being yanked off of planes, strip-searched and detained for hours or days on end, all because they were checking their iphone after the light to turn mobile devices off flashed and somebody on the plane freaked out and alerted a stewardess.  There are American citizens right now who are on no-fly lists just because they have relatives in the middle-east, or because their name got mixed up with someone on a watch list, or just because they have the audacity to be Muslims and fly around the country regularly for business.  All of these blatant violations of these people's constitutionally-protected rights are completely within the scope of the Patriot Act - the most ironically named piece of legislation in U.S. history.

So, because it didn't matter to the majority of Americans if we treated Muslims and A-Rabs like criminals without probable cause, now we have a legal framework in place which allows our government to modify the wording just slightly and apply the same gestapo tactics to anyone else they choose.  Now, we have the culmination of that egregious act of anti-American "lawmaking", the NDAA.

First, they came for the Muslims,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Muslim.
Then, they came for the OWS protesters,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't an OWS protester.
Then, they came for the liberals and progressives,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a liberal or a progressive.
Then, they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

If we do not learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it.

The media blackout surrounding the potential passage of the NDAA is frightening and shameful.  The media is controlled by the same corporations who can't wait for this law to pass so they can pressure their pocket politicians to start rounding up the agitators at all these Occupy protests and make them "go away", so they can get back to the business of exploiting the working class without reprisal.  More people aren't outraged by this, frankly, because more people don't even know about it or what it means to our basic, essential freedoms.  It's unacceptable that the news media isn't talking about this non-stop.  It's unacceptable that so many Americans aren't even aware of how close we are to taking a huge step towards repeating the same horrible scenario that played out in Germany right before WW2.  Instead, just like the rising Nazi party did in Germany, we're being played against each other with distractions like "The War on Christmas" and other meaningless moral eccentricities that keep us too busy fighting amongst ourselves to realize that the walls of the cage are being closed slowly around all of us.  If we don't take a stand for our basic freedoms now, we won't have any left tomorrow.  I can't overstate this, the passage of the NDAA is the end of freedom in America as we know it.

Speak up now before there's no one left to speak up.

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