“Terrorists” at Home

NEW YORK – Last week, I submitted an affidavit to support an important lawsuit brought by reporter Chris Hedges and others, including Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky, against US President Barack Obama and his defense secretary, Leon Panetta.

The lawsuit seeks to stop implementation of the horrific new National Defense Authorization Act, also known as the “Homeland Battlefield Bill,” which Obama signed into law in December. As a result, the United States government’s “war on terror” has come home: any American may now be detained indefinitely, without charge or trial, anywhere, at any time, forever.

As Hedges wrote recently in a chilling explication of why he is bringing the lawsuit, the NDAA’s “crucial phrases are ‘substantially supported’ and ‘associated forces.’” These two phrases, he argues, allow the government to expand the definition of terrorism to include groups that were not involved in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and that may not even have existed when those attacks took place. According to Hedges, “the law can be used to detain individuals who are not members of terrorist organizations but have provided, in the words of the bill, substantial support even to ‘associated forces.’”

As Hedges points out, neither of these terms is properly specified; nor does the law define an act of terror, or the activities of those purportedly “engaged in hostilities against the United States.” As Hedges puts it, “this is why, especially as acts of civil disobedience proliferate, the NDAA law is so terrifying.”