Poisoning Public Discourse – An Analysis

by Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses, 6/9/12

Part I – NDAA Redux

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is misnamed. The Act has less to do with defense than offense. The offensive it wages is not just against a growing list of alleged enemies but also, from a constitutional perspective, against the rights of American citizens and residents. Major parts of the legislation are based on the assumption that key legal protections for individuals are incompatible with the requirements of national security. The result is that Americans are now caught between “the terrorists” and the authoritarian propensities of their own government. If one does not get you, the other will.

The NDAA–specifically Section 1021(b)(2)–has already institutionalized the U.S. military’s ability to indefinitely detain, without charge or trial, citizens and non-citizens alike. This is a serious abuse of power. The monarchical authority our founding fathers sought to escape practiced such a “disappearance” of people. The contemporary dictatorships Washington has so consistently supported practice this horror as well. Now we, having no patience or imagination to seek routes to security compatible with our own legal principles, begin to illegally imprison without recourse those we (rightly or wrongly) fear.

A recent decision by New York Appellate Court Judge Katherine Forrest suspended this part of the NDAA. This was the result of a law suit brought against the Act by seven journalists and anti-war activists and it came as an embarrassing surprise to “Justice” Department lawyers defending indefinite detention. What will now follow will be an effort to overturn or minimize Judge Forrest’s ruling because it restrains future military operations that might be ordered by the commander and chief during wartime.” At first the government asserted that the judge’s ruling applied only to the seven plaintiffs in the suit. She quickly clarified her ruling to make it plain that her ruling “enjoined enforcement of Section 1021(b)(2) against anyone….” The government lawyers will certainly appeal Forrest’s decision. If necessary, they will declare to the Supreme Court the necessity of eroding the very constitution they are sworn to uphold, and so presently myopic is that court of last resort, that it will almost certainly agree.

However, the negative potential of the NDAA does not stop with the issue of indefinite detention. It has now come to light that the 2013 version of the Act (passed by the House but yet to be taken up by the Senate) allows the State Department and Department of Defense to direct the same kind of massive propaganda campaigns here in the U.S. that are presently waged as part of American war efforts in foreign lands. This latest maneuver is the bi-partisan work of two Congressmen: Mac Thornberry (Republican) of Texas and Adam Smith (Democrat) of Washington State. Both claim that current law, which prohibits these government agencies from propagandizing within the U.S., “ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.”

Part II – What of Public Discourse?

Thornberry and Smith’s action raises the question of the role of public discourse. Of course, the discourse coming from government has always been skewed. Yet up to this point there has been legislative recognition that the government should not lie to its own people the way it does to foreign audiences. It is this distinction that Thornberry and Smith would eliminate by writing into the institutional job-descriptions of the State and Defense Departments the mission of selling U.S. government foreign policy and its accompanying wars to Americans through massive advertising campaigns….

continue reading at To the Point Analyses

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Filed under Lawrence Davidson, Rights, Justice, Law

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