More than 500 signatories have joined in a public statement "A Call To Stand Together To Oppose The Obama Administration's Dangerous Assault On Fundamental Rights." Signers include Daniel Ellsberg, Cornel West, film/TV actor Peter Coyote, Cindy Sheehan, Michael Steven Smith of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Stephen Soldz of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Donna Haraway of UC-Santa Cruz, and Middle East scholar Steven Zunes.
The immediate catalyst for the statement is the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA) and the ruling of May 16 by Judge Katherine Forrest in U.S. District Court (NYSD) in response to the lawsuit Hedges et al. v Obama et al.
The judge agreed with the plaintiffs (Hedges et al.) that section 1021 of the NDAA, which allowed for indefinite detention, without charge or trial, of a vague category of people, was unconstitutional--and she imposed a temporary injunction blocking enforcement of the law. The ruling was a mainly positive one, but it also contains an erroneous and potentially harmful characterization of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP) and its Chairman, Bob Avakian. This has been protested in a legal brief ("Brief Filed Objecting to Dangerous Mischaracterization of RCP, USA
On August 7, a hearing was held by Judge Forrest to determine if the temporary injunction will become permanent. Lawyers for the plaintiffs (Hedges et al.) argued that the injunction should become permanent; lawyers for the defendants (Obama et al.) argued that the law should go into effect. Judge Forrest will now decide the matter. But even as she is deliberating, and it is not clear when her decision will come, the Obama administration has taken steps to appeal her May 16 ruling to the next federal appellate court. In short, the case is very much alive, and the harmful characterization is still in the court record.
A Call To Stand Together To Oppose The Obama Administration's Dangerous Assault On Fundamental Rights
The administration of Barack Obama, which had promised to put an end to torture and other outrages committed by the Bush Administration, is in fact putting into place a dangerous system of repression and control. This is a serious assault on fundamental rights, and it must be answered not with silence and complicity but with heightened awareness and more determined opposition.
The record of the Obama Administration is a chilling one. President Obama has preserved Bush's rendition program, which relies upon torture, and has extended the Patriot Act. His Administration has adopted a quasi-official assassination policy, complete with secret "kill lists" reviewed by the President, which Attorney General Holder has brazenly asserted meets Constitutional standards of due process. In the 2010 case of Holder v HLP [Humanitarian Law Project], the Obama administration successfully argued before the courts that the "crime" of "material support" to "terrorists" be broadened to include merely speaking with and advising (even on some legal matters) any group designated by the government as terrorist. The ruling has already been applied to pro-Palestinian activists and endangers many others, including prominent public intellectuals, as well as groups upholding or advocating fundamental social change.
The most recent expansion of dangerous and illegitimate government authority is the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This law grants to any U.S. president the power to detain any person, including U.S. citizens, indefinitely and without charge or trial, for the alleged crime of associating with a broad and vague category of people, which could include people who have nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks or with terrorism in general.
The pattern is disturbingly clear: not just a continuation but a further leap in the draconian measures taken by the Bush administration--under the pretext of the open-ended, so-called War on Terror--to detain, torture, and assassinate"not just a continuation but a further leap in measures to restrict and criminalize dissent and opposition to the status quo.
This must not go unanswered--nor be allowed to continue to grow increasingly worse. In opposing these repressive moves, it is imperative that people not allow anyone, or any one group, to be singled out or targeted for repression. In this regard, the lawsuit Hedges et al. v Obama et al. that is challenging ominous provisions of the NDAA is quite salient. On May 16, a federal district court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and issued a temporary injunction blocking the government from implementing Section 1021 of this law. But insinuated into this mainly positive ruling is a reference to the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and its Chairman Bob Avakian which is an erroneous and potentially harmful characterization that could be used as a pretext to criminalize what is constitutionally protected freedom of speech and association and potentially sweep the RCP and its Chairman into a category of organizations identified by the government as terrorist.
Those of us signing this statement cannot speak for the RCP and indeed have various levels of familiarity with and a variety of views on its philosophical and political principles and objectives. But we do not countenance--and recognize as very dangerous--the designation by the powers-that-be of groups as politically "acceptable" and "unacceptable." History teaches, by negative and positive example, that we must stand against attempts to divide progressive, radical, and revolutionary forces along any such lines.
In this there are very important lessons to be drawn from the self-critical summation by Pastor Martin Niemoeller of his experience when confronted with the heightening repression carried out by the Nazi regime in Germany during the 1930s:
"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 the Catholics, and I didn't speak out because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak out for me."
The signatories of this statement call on people to step forward and stand together to oppose the assault on dissent and the moves to restrict and criminalize oppositional speech, association, and political activity, which are being carried out by the Obama Administration and which continue and expand dangerous precedents and mechanisms which can also be utilized by any future Administration.