With the rise of a new year and our 113th Congress, BORDC continues its mission to inform and mobilize the public around significant civil liberties concerns. While mainstream news outlets inundated the national consciousness with "fiscal cliff" hyperbole, we occupied the airwaves last week to engage quiet-but-critical issues facing the American people.
On Thursday January 3, Flashpoints on KPFA 94.1 featured BORDC Communications Specialist Samantha A. Peetros to discuss indefinite detention. Sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allow the military to detain anyone in U.S. territory on suspicion of committing or supporting terrorism. Leary of the national security institution's broad definition of "terrorism", and vague standards for passive activities that merit detention, a class of journalists and activists initiated Hedges v. Obama to challenge the NDAA's prejudicial effect on their work and civil liberties. However, as Peetros observes:
the problem here is it’s not just limited to journalists, it’s not just limited to activists; it applies to all of us. ...It’s so broad and it can be applied in almost any circumstance that the government wants to when...considering potential terrorist activity. ...And unfortunately, so far, attempts to constrain that have been eliminated in Congress.
Though indefinite detention of Americans indicates a disturbing future, the greatest hope for freedom lies in the American people. Peetros suggests that preserving our rights requires "raising awareness [and] encouraging education", because without a persistent, collective voice, "this [issue] will disappear again and people will forget we are letting Congress erode our civil rights".
Also on Thursday, Samantha appeared on Syndicated News to offer perspective on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Initially enacted to prevent domestic spying, FISA now authorizes the clandestine activity Congress intended to prohibit. Peetros describes warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency (NSA) as:
...the most invasive dragnet surveillance program. It goes beyond whether or not you’re the person [the government is] targeting...they’re eavesdropping on all Americans, and it’s an issue of your constitutional rights.
On Friday January 4, BORDC Legal Fellow Michael Figura extended the discussion of FISA on Radio Islam. Regarding the warrantless wiretapping program's evasion of judicial review, Figura explains:
...every time the courts have examined this on the merits, they said its unconstitutional. But the problem is the government has claimed secret privilege... what they've said is: because the program is secret, you can't prove you're being spied on, and you can't have your day in court.
Figura's analysis illustrates the treachery of warrantless wiretapping under FISA. Although state secrecy deters government accountability, Figura encourages Americans to engage grassroots organization and "stand up against spying by law enforcement", citing demonstrations in California, Massachusetts, and New York City as effective examples of public protest against the curtailment of civil liberties.
Appearing Wednesday January 2, on Al-Jazeera's Inside Story, BORDC Executive Director Shahid Buttar expounded on the malicious nature of FISA. Protesting that "civil liberties are dead for all intents and purposes", he condemned the obscurity of NSA operations and their very real impact on Americans' lives. Buttar observes:
No one knows how much money the NSA squanders to abuse our rights, but it’s budgetary salt on a constitutional wound, and either of those elements of secrecy alone should be enough to disqualify this law, and at least force the executive branch to answer the tough questions.…These are questions that gravely concern the rights -- and the pocketbooks -- of all Americans.
Although the feds utilize secret courts and overclassified documents to elude public oversight, grassroots organization and pervasive action against constitutionally subversive programs can effectively secure our civil liberties.
Buttar also appeared Wednesday on HuffPoLive to defend the Constitution as an enduring foundation to establish our essential freedoms. Exploring the 200-year-old document's relevance as legislation like FISA and the NDAA render its fundamental principles to precarious pillars, Buttar contends:
The value in the Constitution inheres beyond the principles that are disregarded by our political system. ...[C]onstitutional values can inform political decisions. The normative value of constitutional principles, in their cultural sense, remains very, very compelling, and the idea of extricating that baseline…is fraught with potential danger and instability.
Rather than operating on the implication of liberty, Buttar suggests that we represent our rights and hold elected officials accountable for constitutional infidelity. The Constitution may not command deference as a mere document, but the principles and ideas it entails weave together our system's social and moral fabric. Where our public officials and national leaders fail to protect our interests, We the people must assume responsibility.
Visit BORDC's Resources page to learn how you and your community can get active, and continue to check our media spots for information on issues concerning us all.
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