NDAA The Future of Dissent

On last night’s Occupy Supply Skill Share, we discussed the NDAA and its implications on the future of dissent. At the beginning of the year, President Obama signed this year’s National Defense Authorization Act; immediately people focused on sections 1021 and 1022 concerning indefinite detention. Chris Hedges and a group of Journalists and Activists recently presented a suit against members of Congress and the Obama Administration regarding the constitutionality of the NDAA. We were joined by two of the plaintiffs on the case, Alexa O’Brien and Kai Wargalla.

Alexa O’Brien a content strategist who has written a number of articles about Guantanamo detainees and founded the group US Day of Rage. She joined the effort to combat the unconstitutional NDAA after finding that there where attempts to link her US Day of Rage to terrorist organizations.

Kai Wargalla is a London based activist whose use of social media was instrumental in the initiation of Occupy London and founder of Justice For Assange UK. She became a part of the suit due to a bulletin issued by the City of London Police in a terrorism and extremism update.

Alexa started of the discussion by breaking down sections 1021 and 1022 of the NDAA piece by piece. Affirmation Of Authority Of The Armed Forces Of The United States to Detain Covered Persons Pursuant To The Authorization For Use Of Military Force allows for the indefinite detention of any person who was a part of or “substantially supported” Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, 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 such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces. She described the vague nature of the phrase material support.

Andy Worthington, Guantanamo Bay historian and author, said about section 1022:

” However, it is, above all, a disgrace that foreigners are being ignored by those campaigning against the indefinite military detention of US terror suspects — or those seized in the US — because the principles of detention are the same whether you are an American or not. Until the “war on terror,” there were only two ways of depriving someone of their liberty — either they were criminal suspects, who would be tried, promptly, in federal court, or they were prisoners of war, to be held humanely until the duration of hostilities, and protected, under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, from “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture,” and from “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”

Part of the argument for section 1022 produced by the government is that the NDAA was a reiteration of the AUMF. Alexa pointed out

Section 1021′s is a far reaching expansion of the AUMF, Authorization for the Use of Military Force (PDF), and contains language so vague that it permits the US Government to indefinitely detain individuals it deems as a threat anywhere in the world, including journalists and activists, violating the First and Fifth amendments of the US Constitution

The conversation then turned to how the NDAA has been used so far. Sami Al Haj and Abdul Ilah Shaya have both been detained. Sami Al Haj is a Sudanese journalist for the Al Jazeera network. In 2001, while on his way to do camera work for the network in Afghanistan, he was arrested by the Pakistani army and held in the United States Guantanamo Bay detainment camp in Cuba for over six years. Abdul Ilah Shaya is a Yemeni journalist who remains imprisoned due to the influence of the Obama Administration over the President of Yemen. It is apparent that Congress is, in Alexa’s words, “Hell Bent” on broadening the definition of “material support” in order to expand powers under the NDAA.

Once Alexa had given a full analysis of the NDAA and its constitutionality we began addressing the personal experiences of the plaintiffs in court. Both Alexa and Kai shared the incidents that lead them to become part of the case — how intimidating and nerve-wracking it can be to have defense contractors contacting you about links to terrorist organizations. In the eyes of the state dissent has become terrorism and journalists have become targets. In Kai’s case, Occupy London was placed on a terrorism and extremism memo. Kai discussed her feeling about the experience of testifying and some of her testimony. Kevin Gosztola join the conversation at the end to give his insights on the implications of this case and the temporary injunction won by the plaintiffs; he made a point to highlight the poor defense that the government has provided. Dan Choi also came on to add some levity to the conversation and show his support for Kai, Alexa, and everyone who has lead the fight against indefinite detention. The courage demonstrated by these brave plaintiffs is exemplary.

To continue following the details of the case visit www.stopndaa.org and please join us on our next Occupy Supply Skill Share.