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who helped make our 25th anniversary with Jeremy Scahill a success!

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Between The Lines Presentation at the Left Forum 2016

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"How Do We Build A Mass Movement to Reverse Runaway Inequality?" with Les Leopold, author of "Runaway Inequality: An Activist's Guide to Economic Justice,"May 22, 2016, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York, 860 11th Ave. (Between 58th and 59th), New York City. Between The Lines' Scott Harris and Richard Hill moderated this workshop. Listen to the audio/slideshows and more from this workshop.





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JEREMY SCAHILL: Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker "Dirty Wars"

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"The Rogue World Order: Connecting the Dots Between Trump, Flynn, Bannon, Spencer, Dugin Putin," by Anna Manzo (GlobalHealing), Daily Kos, Feb. 13, 2017

"Widespread Resistance Begins to Trump's Muslim Travel Ban at U.S. Airports," by Anna Manzo (GlobalHealing), Daily Kos, Jan. 28, 2017

"MSNBC Editor: Women's March is a Revival of the Progressive Movement," by Anna Manzo (GlobalHealing), Daily Kos, Jan. 24, 2017

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National Campaign Organizes to Overturn Provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act that Empowers Government to Indefinitely Detain American Citizens

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Posted Feb. 22, 2012

Interview with Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

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President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, on New Year's Eve last year, at a time that was sure to elicit little media coverage. The president had earlier promised to veto the bill if provisions were not removed that called for the indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens and non-citizens arrested on American soil on suspicion of engaging in terrorism, without charge or trial.

Although these provisions were not removed, Obama ignored his pledge and signed the bill into law, along with a signing statement declaring that he had “serious reservations” about the indefinite imprisonment provisions and would not engage in such imprisonment of American citizens. But the statement only applies to how Obama would apply the law, and is not binding on his successors in the White House.

As opposition to the indefinite detention provisions grow, a coalition of peace and civil rights groups held a meeting Feb. 18 at a mosque in Hartford, Conn. The meeting, attended by about 100 people of many backgrounds was organized to plan a response to the NDAA provisions, which they assert threatens the civil liberties of all Americans. Between the Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, who spoke at the meeting. He outlines what the legislation will allow and the efforts underway to educate Americans about what he says are its most dangerous provisions.

SHAHID BUTTAR: The NDAA contains two provisions, Sections 1021 and 1022, that relate to indefinite military detention. They are intentionally ambiguous, and if you read the law without having a great deal of context, it might seem that they allow for due process to continue for some people. Even under the most charitable reading of the bill, the NDAA abrogates the right to trial and due process for non-citizens and for citizens apprehended outside the U.S. The fact of the matter is that even for U.S. citizens within the U.S., the NDAA does in fact authorize detention without trial, particularly because the existing authorities – particularly the Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Afghanistan – has already been used to assert that power. What the NDAA does is codify what used to be a unilateral executive assertion applied to two Americans over the last ten years and then creates a statutory framework that can now be applied to anyone. You might think of the NDAA as the bill that extends Guantanamo beyond Guantanamo into the domestic U.S. and across our country, giving any future president the authority, essentially, to round up political opposition without allowing people a day in court to prove their innocence.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Obama was making noises...at first he said he'd veto this bill. Then he felt like some changes were made that he was comfortable with it and he signed it and added a signing statement saying it wouldn't apply to U.S. citizens within the country. Does that give you any sense of security?

SHAHID BUTTAR: None at all. The president has an unfortunately long habit of breaking promises with respect to civil rights and civil liberties. When he was running for the White House, he promised to filibuster the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) law that authorized the National Security Agency (NSA)'s warrantless wiretapping scheme, before ultimately voting for it. He promised to veto the NDAA before ultimately voting for it, and the signing statement – his latest promise – said that, "As long as I'm in the White House, we won't do this to U.S. citizens." The problem is that A), he doesn't stick to his promises so even while he's in the White House it doesn't hold a great deal of water. Second, the signing statement by this administration in no way constrains future administrations. One point that I think a lot of people miss here is that the AUMF contemplated a very specific set of actions, that is to say, the invasion of Afghanistan. It did not encompass any of the things that presidents from both political parties have shoehorned onto it. That very thin thread has been used by an excuse already to detain U.S. citizens apprehended in the U.S. militarily without trial. The NDAA builds a much bigger hook for any executive to interpret his powers very expansively in the future.

BETWEEN THE LINES: I've been kind of shocked by the lack of media outrage that then would presumably extend to the population that might want to do something about this. Have there been any websites or any campaigns via social media that have taken this up? And, if so, have they garnered much support, do you know?

SHAHID BUTTAR: We're certainly running one at the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. And I would say that our traffic has increased maybe three-fold since the NDAA emerged. That's a scratch of the surface; it's not even a drop in the bucket. It has to be much bigger than that. One observation that I'd offer just to carry your point forward: on Dece. 15, Bill of Rights Day, there were 30 different cities in which grassroots actions along the lines of marches, rallies, took place opposing the NDAA. None of them – not a single one – nor the 30 together got any press conference. It's the closest thing I've seen to a coordinated media blackout of any subject matter I've ever seen, and I think part of the reason is that neither the press nor even the members of Congress who voted for this law quite understand what it means. And that obfuscation, the ambiguity – it's a disincentive for media to cover it because it is very complicated and it takes some familiarity with issues that are not easily accessible, and I think that's a real shame. I know all the big advocacy organizations – the Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU – have been speaking publicly about it, but the fact of the matter is that's not enough. It has to be an echo chamber that includes the tens – I would even say hundred – of millions of Americans, we the people of the U.S. who have an interest in guarding and restoring our own rights.

BETWEEN THE LINES: There's been some victories recently. What happened in Northampton?

SHAHID BUTTAR: Northampton, Mass., this very week, passed a local resolution to restore due process, and it says the local public agencies will be encouraged not to participate or support any federal applications of these powers. It also says that that vote to dissent by the city in its formal, official capacity will be sent up the chain to the congressional representatives who represent that district. The first of the resolutions rejecting the NDAA came from a county in Colorado that encompasses the Air Force Academy, and it's red, white and blue patriotism straight through and through. It says these are not the principles that our armed services fought and died to defend. And you see, in the grassroots resistance to indefinite military detention, a very compelling confluence among what some might describe as unholy bedfellows – the libertarian right, and progressive sectors of our society – people of color, peace and justice activists, the Occupy movements – and the Tea Party chapters and the Campaign for Liberty and the Tenth Amendment Center are coming together around this set of principles that are so fundamental, so deeply engrained and enmeshed that they constitute what America has long been known for. Presumption of innocence is not a small matter; that was historical when we introduced it to the world, and we resigned it with such casual indifference that I think the opportunity to bring these very diverse voices together is, frankly, inspiring. And while the NDAA itself might represent a constitutional atrocity, it also represents the opportunity, I think, for our country to remember, in this time of very deep partisan vitriol, what makes us all Americans.

For more information on the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, visit www.BORDC.org.

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