Friday, March 30, 2012

What is the National Defense Authorization Bill Really About

Majia here: A group of activists comprised of both academics and journalists is combating the NDAA with a legal challenge. In the US, the law violates our First Amendment right. Below find a brief excerpt from an article on the legal challenge and an analysis of the cultural and economic factors that contributed to the production of this Constitutionally-violating bill.

Chomsky, Journalists Challenge US Terrorism LawBy Paul Harris, Guardian UK 30 March 12

[excerpt] "A group political activists and journalists has launched a legal challenge to stop an American law they say allows the US military to arrest civilians anywhere in the world and detain them without trial as accused supporters of terrorism.

The seven figures, who include ex-New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, professor Noam Chomsky and Icelandic politician and WikiLeaks campaigner Birgitta Jonsdottir, testified to a Manhattan judge that the law – dubbed the NDAA or Homeland Battlefield Bill – would cripple free speech around the world.

They said that various provisions written into the National Defense Authorization Bill, which was signed by President Barack Obama at the end of 2011, effectively broadened the definition of "supporter of terrorism" to include peaceful activists, authors, academics and even journalists interviewing members of radical groups."

Majia here: Strategic US policy makers have been anticipating civil unrest in the U.S. because of growing inequality, lack of economic opportunity (particularly for young people and returning veterans), and outright desperation among the poor.

Militarization of police and the curtailment of civil liberties - such as free speech - are designed to suppress "civil unrest," which has been defined broadly in relation to peaceful demonstrations (see the ACLU documented cited at the bottom of this post). 

US strategic documents anticipated unrest and outlined the conditions under which US military forces could be deployed on US soil

In what follows I provide some background, drawing upon my book Governing Childhood:

In November 2008 the Strategic Studies Institute issued a report titled “Known Unknowns: Uncoventional ‘Strategic Shocks’ in Defense Strategy Development” authored by Nathan Freier. The report summary explains its objectives to anticipate and develop contingency plans for unconventional “dangerous future shocks” that “manifest themselves in ways far outside established defense convention” (vii). Although most of the shocks are anticipated to be “nonmilitary in origin and character,” Department of Defense (DoD) planning is recommended. The types of shocks included in this planning document include the following:

Threats of context might include but are not limited to contagious un- and under-governance; civil violence; the swift catastrophic onset of consequential natural, environmental, and/or human disaster; a rapidly expanding and uncontrollable transregional epidemic; and the sudden crippling instability or collapse of a large and important state. Indeed, pushing at the boundaries of current convention, it would be prudent to add catastrophic dislocation inside the United States or homegrown domestic civil disorder and/or violence to this category as well. (p. 17)

The report explains that most of these “contextual threats” are the origins of shocks since they operate as triggers or catalysts. The DoD will be forced to “fundamentally reorient strategy, capabilities, investments, and concepts in response” (p. 18). Shocks emerging within or external to the U.S. would force the DoD “to radically re-role for domestic security, population control, consequence management, and stabilization” (p. 18).

Paths to domestic civil violence that would require the DoD to reorient priorities “to defend basic domestic order and human security” include deployment of “weapons of mass destruction, unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and economic order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency,” etc (p. 32). 

Civil violence might require the “use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States” (p. 33). Moreover, the DoD “would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance” (p. 33). In other words, the report outlines when and how the DoD would assume responsibility for direct domestic governance

The American Civil Liberties Union reports that DoD terrorism training materials currently employed describe public protests as “low level terrorism” (“ACLU Challenges”). Additionally, the Pentagon plans to have 20,000 uniformed trained troops inside the U.S. by 2011, purportedly to help state and local officials respond to a terrorist attack or some other domestic catastrophe (Hsu and Tyson A1). The Washington Post reports resistance to this plan:

Domestic emergency deployment may be "just the first example of a series of expansions in presidential and military authority," or even an increase in domestic surveillance, said Anna Christensen of the ACLU's National Security Project. And Cato Vice President Gene Healy warned of "a creeping militarization" of homeland security. (Hsu and Tyson A1)

End of Excerpt

We saw the militiarization of domestic policing in the heavy-handed police response to Occupy activities, as illustrated in these 2 citations:

Images of Assaults Against Demonstrators

Raids on OWS coordinated with Obama’s FBI, Homeland Security & others 
Update: ‘Occupy’ crackdowns coordinated with federal law enforcement officials Minneapolis Top News ExaminerNovember 15, 2011
"Over the past ten days, more than a dozen cities have moved to evict “Occupy” protesters from city parks and other public spaces. As was the case in last night’s move in New York City, each of the police actions shares a number of characteristics. And according to one Justice official, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.

"The official, who spoke on background to me late Monday evening, said that while local police agencies had received tactical and planning advice from national agencies, the ultimate decision on how each jurisdiction handles the Occupy protests ultimately rests with local law enforcement.

"According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present."

We see in this article above how local policing is being guided on how to crack down on dissent by federal agencies. 

The National Defense Authorization Bill provides government with a ready tool to crack down on internet and print activism. 

On the one hand, I think it unlikely that the bill will be used presently to crack down on activists for criticizing government policy; but, on the other hand, any future shock to the system that further exacerbates the growing economic and social tension may result in rapid escalation of government censorship and repression. 

The bill makes it possible for the government to take immediate action to detain without due process any party linked to civil unrest. Thus, the mere existence of this legislation is a threat to our Constitution and Republic. 

The extend and pretend policies that have been used to handle the last three major crises -- the financial crisis, the BP oil crisis, and the Fukushima crisis -- demonstrate rather conclusively that our society lacks the capacity to confront openly and directly major challenges. 

A governing logic of extend and pretend means that those who speak truth to power by declaring that the "Emperor has No Clothes" threaten the facade of normality and thus, are by definition, threats to "security."

Majia's book

ACLU. “ACLU Challenges Defense Department Personnel Policy To Regard Lawful Protests As ‘Low-Level Terrorism.’”ACLU. 10 June 2009. 24 June 2009

Freier, Nathan. “Known Unknowns: Unconventional ‘Strategic Shocks’ in Defense Strategy Development.” Strategic Studies Institute November 2008. 12 December 2008

Hsu, Spencer S., and Ann S. Tyson. “Pentagon to Detail Troops to Bolster Domestic Security.” The Washington Post 1 December 2008: A1.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” U.S. Department of Homeland Security 7 April 2009. 3 May 2009

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