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NDAA: Hedges, Ellsberg et al Take To Social Media Today To Fight Indefinite Detention Law

5:12 am in Uncategorized by David Segal

With a few noble exceptions, the mainstream media has failed to give the critical issue of “indefinite detention” the attention it deserves. Today we launch an effort to “hack” around them, and make sure Americans know about this extraordinary threat to our civil liberties and the Obama administration’s attempts to fight a federal court’s finding that indefinite detention is unconstitutional.

Lawyers, plaintiffs, and civil liberties advocates involved in the Hedges v. Obama lawsuit and other activism to fight the NDAA – otherwise known as the “indefinite detention” law — are taking to social media today in two ways.

1) Several will participate in an “Ask Me Anything” conversation today, Thursday, at noon on the website Reddit. All are welcome to participate at:

Confirmed participants include Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, and Revolution Truth director Tangerine Bolen (all plaintiffs); lawyers Bruce Afran and Carl Mayer; and Demand Progress executive director David Segal.

2) Demand Progress has launched a detain-your-friend Facebook app. It allows users to spread the alarm about indefinite detention by “detaining” their friends Facebook profile pictures — overlaying prison bars upon them and posting info to their Facebook walls about indefinite detention and how to fight it. Internet users can visit to “detain” their friends.

Indefinite detention was passed as part of the fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act and signed into law by President Obama on New Years Eve, 2011. It would allow the military to detain civilians — even Americans — indefinitely and without charge or trial.

The provision being fought (Section 1021 of the NDAA) suspends due process and seriously threatens First Amendment rights. Judge Katherine Forrest ruled entirely in favor of the plaintiffs earlier this month, calling Section 1021 completely unconstitutional and granting a permanent injunction against its enforcement..

The Obama DOJ has vigorously opposed these efforts, and immediately appealed her ruling and requested an emergency stay on the injunction – claiming the US would incur “irreparable harm” if the president lost the power to use Section 1021 – and detain anyone, anywhere “until the end of hostilities” on a whim. This case will probably make its way to the Supreme Court.

Judge Strikes Down Indefinite Detention: Tell Obama To Stop Supporting This Wretched Law

10:18 pm in Uncategorized by David Segal


We just won the lawsuit against Obama et al over the indefinite detention provisions of the fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. These provisions represented a blatant violation of due process and First Amendment rights, and plaintiffs argued that they were already having a chilling effect on journalists and activists.

The NDAA included a clause which afforded the military the power to detain civilians — even Americans — indefinitely, without charge or trial, if they are accused of certain anti-state crimes or are accused of “substantially supporting” those accused of said crimes or forces associated therewith.    If that sounds tortuous and nebulous it’s because it is: What the heck does “substantially support” or “associated force” even mean?

You can urge Obama not to appeal the ruling by clicking here.

In a sweeping 112-page ruling (which I’ve not yet read in full) Judge Katherine Forrest issued a permanent injunction against the use of such powers.  Here’s Reuters:

A federal judge made permanent on Wednesday her order blocking enforcement of a U.S. law’s provision that authorizes military detention for people deemed to have “substantially supported” al Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces.”

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan had ruled in May in favor of non-profit groups and reporters whose work relates to conflicts in the Middle East and who said they feared being detained under a section of the law, signed by President Barack Obama in December.

Plaintiffs include Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Tangerine Bolen, and others; Demand Progress and RevolutionTruth members have raised around $20,000 to support the lawsuit and used it to pressure lawmakers to revoke the provions in question.  We lost a relatively narrow vote in the House a few months ago, and the Senate will take up amendments to end indefinite detention in coming weeks.

We’re hoping the Senate will actually take this finding of unconstitutionality to heart and explicitly revoke the codification of the indefinite detention authority when the NDAA gets a vote in coming weeks.

This ruling required great fortitude on the part of Judge Forrest: She was appointed by Obama just last year.  After initially expressing concerns about the provisions in question — because they infringed on certain executive power, not because of all of the reasons above — Obama has consistently supported and defended them.  He signed them into law under cloak of darkness on New Year’s Eve and has aggressively defended them in court.

This’ll probably get appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court — but you can click here to urge Obama to stop protecting this awful law.

ACLU is calling it a direct assault on Internet users

11:26 am in Uncategorized by David Segal

"Save the Internet..."

"Save the Internet..." by Steve Rhodes on flickr

“A direct assault on Internet users” is what the ACLU is calling it.  Yesterday a U.S. House committee approved HR 1981, a broad new Internet snooping bill.  They want to force Internet service providers to keep track of and retain their customers’ information — including your name, address, phone number, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and temporarily-assigned IP addresses.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the American Library Association, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Demand Progress, and 25 other civil liberties and privacy groups have expressed our opposition to this legislation.  Will you join us, by emailing your lawmakers today?

They’ve shamelessly dubbed it the “Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act,” but our staunchest allies in Congress are calling it what it is: an all-encompassing Internet snooping bill: The logs of users’ information would be accessible to police no matter the alleged crime.  And while it was initially asserted that the bill only required IP address storage — which would have been bad enough — an amendment was offered to clarify that this was the case was rejected on a 7-16 vote.

For a few minutes, it looked like a groundswell of opposition from progressives and right-wing libertarians might derail the legislation:

Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, who led Democratic opposition to the bill said, “‘It represents a data bank of every digital act by every American’ that would ‘let us find out where every single American visited Web sites.

“The bill is mislabeled,” said Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the panel. “This is not protecting children from Internet pornography. It’s creating a database for everybody in this country for a lot of other purposes.”

Rep. Sensenbrenner said: “I oppose this bill…It can be amended, but I don’t think it can be fixed…It poses numerous risks that well outweigh any benefits, and I’m not convinced it will contribute in a significant way to protecting children.”

But the bill eventually passed on shameful 19-10 bipartisan vote and now moves to the full House.

Bin Laden Is Dead, But Will The Patriot Act Live On?

7:00 am in Uncategorized by David Segal

Osama Bin Laden is dead, but will the Patriot Act live on? The Patriot Act is up for renewal this month. This legislation was initially enacted as a supposedly temporary measure in the wake of 9-11, but portions of it have been made permanent, and the remaining provisions have been extended four times and are set to sunset on May 27th. With the death of Bin Laden, it’s time for Congress to re-institute pre-9-11 legal norms, when reverence for civil liberties was a priority for both Americans and their government.

A key debate is brewing as the vote grows near: The right-wing will argue that Bin Laden’s demise is evidence that the spying regime was justified. We believe it means that it’s time to fix the Patriot Act once and for all. We must erase bin Laden’s ugly legacy, not extend it: By ending the PATRIOT Act’s erosion of our civil liberties, we can protect the freedoms that make America worth fighting for.

Click here to sign our petition to Congress and President Obama, and urge them to fix the Patriot Act this month.

Progressives and Tea Party Republicans initially blocked a long-term Patriot Act extension in January, but a three month-extension was passed in February. During the interim, the House and Senate have held hearings on potential reforms to the expiring provisions. The authorities in question are:

1) Section 215 powers which make it easier for the government to seize records from people not accused or suspected of crimes.
2) Roving wiretaps which need not specify the devices or the individuals being targeted.
2) The “lone wolf” provision which reduces legal protections for certain individuals by applying the standards used when somebody is an agent of a foreign power.

These provisions were always unjustified, always an over-reach of the government’s authorities, initially enacted only because a terrorized citizenry was too fearful to prioritize defense of its constitutional rights. With Bin Laden’s passing it should be clear to all Americans: The era of the Patriot Act, of spying on Americans who aren’t suspected of crimes, of heavy-handed abuse of our dearly held civil liberties, must come to an end.

Will you click here to sign our petition urging Congress to fix the Patriot Act?

Nearly 75,000 Demand Progress members have urged Congress to fix the Patriot Act. In April 3,000 of them called the White House to urge President Obama to veto any bill that lacks sufficient reforms. Demand Progress aired an anti-Patriot Act ad on MSNBC, CNN, and FOX News earlier this year. Congress is hearing our calls, but we need to press forward this month if we’re going to win the fight.

Could The Government Really Shut Down Facebook?

8:14 am in Uncategorized by David Segal

The government could shutdown Facebook, and business interests wants to stop copyright violations by capping how much Internet you get to use.  Those are some of the takeaways from last week’s hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet.

The business lobby, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), are on a crusade to shut down MegaVideo and ensure that no 12 year-old ever downloads another Bieber song for free.  If in service of these highest of ends they should happen to trounce all over the integrity of the Internet and institute a Chinese-style censorship regime, then so be it. An overview of the last few months:

1) The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (the “Internet Blacklist Bill”) would block your access to sites the government says are engaging in even small amounts of copyright infringement — no matter what other content they house.

2) The government just arrested one website operator for linking to other sites.

3) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have been seizing domain names without due process: they shut down 84,000 sites by accident last month, and government officials think ICE and DHS are claiming powers that would even let them shut down Facebook.

    Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren — who opposes the seizures — made that final point at last week’s hearing on online copyright infringement.  She noted that, “If ICE is to be believed [Facebook] would be taken down.”

    You read that right: the agencies in charge of policing online copyright violations are so heavy-handed that they’re claiming powers that could let them shut down Facebook.

    That might sound beyond the pale, but DHS and ICE have been taking their cues from big business — many of the website seizures were directly at the behest of the Recording Industry Association of America, the Movie Picture Association of America — and the business lobby is pushing some pretty outrageous proposals.

    At last week’s hearing, Daniel Castro of the business-backed Information Technology and Innovation Foundation suggested that lawmakers try to stop piracy by instituting Internet “pricing structures and usage caps.” Groups like Demand Progress have been naively plugging along, fighting policies that block users’ access to individual sites, but now big business sees fit to stymie your access to the Internet altogether. So there’s no telling what sort of trouble DHS and ICE will stir up next.

    Click here to watch key clips of last week’s hearing in our new video about these critical threats to Internet freedom.   And demand that DHS and ICE quit it with the website seizures by clicking here.