NDAA hearing notes

“Government lawyers in New York court tell Judge they can’t directly rule out detaining Chris Hedges for reporting, Occupy London for protesting, or the author of a hypothetical book on politics for expressing an opinion, under NDAA sections 1021 and 1022.”

What follows are my verbatim notes from the hearing for the lawsuit by Chris Hedges and other plaintiffs against Barack Obama and other defendants, regarding the NDAA. The hearing took place all day in Judge Forrest’s courtroom in the Southern District of New York City, yesterday, Mar 29. The purpose of the hearing was to establish ‘standing’ – are the plaintiffs legally entitled to sue? Harm: have they experienced negative outcomes, or ‘chill’ of their speech, because of the NDAA? And ‘redressability’: is the plaintiff’s fear of detention reasonable? The plaintiffs include Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Chris Hedges, Occupy London co-founder Kai Wargalla, journalist Alexa O’Brien, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, an Icelandic parliamentarian who supported Wikileaks’ right to publish and Jennifer “Tangerine” Bolen, a civil liberties advocate and independent journalist. Dr. Cornel West and I are also seeking to join the plaintiffs.

(While the notes are as accurate as I could make them, there are elisions due to the volume of the proceedings; these are noted by lines of asterisks. Fundraising to acquire and release the court transcript will commence shortly.)

The headlines? Lawyers for the US government, given several chances by Judge Forrest to do so, would not rule out detaining Chris Hedges under the NDAA for reporting,; they would not rule out defining a political book as providing ‘material support’ for terrorists. The Government, given multiple chances by Judge Forrest to do so, also would not or could not give any direct definition of who is included in the phrase ‘associated forces’, or what any example of what it means to ‘provide material support.” And the government did not dispute the validity of a DHS memo that tried to target Occupy Wall St as cyberterrorists.

Some key moments:

Journalist Alexa O’Brien had detailed how Stratfor, a private security firm with links to the US government, and a Federal agent had all sought to intimidate her. The government lawyer was making the case that she could not know that the US government had directed those actions. One security firm manager, she said, had surveilled her organization.

The government attorney asked her if she knew that the government had been behind those actions.
“None. Those things are done in secret.”

At another point she detailed more private security firm surveillance from a second firm.

Government lawyer: “Do you know the government directed him that action?”

O’Brien: “Yes. He went to the NYPD.”

Government attorney: “Strike response as unresponsive.”

O’Brien produced into evidence a DHS memo that sought to link US Day of Rage to their cyberterrorism initiative. The government lawyer was given a chance by Judge Forrest to dispute the memo as fraudulent and did not do so.

Kai Wargalla, co-founder of Occupy London, submitted into evidence a memo from the City of London Police Department that categorized Occupy London as a terrorist organization.

Obama lawyer: “What evidence do you have that the government has harmed you?”

Wargalla: “Other than putting my organization on a list of terrorist groups, none.”

Chris Hedges testified: “It is my belief that if Reagan officials had had the power of the NDAA to detain journalists covering conflicts in Nicaragua and El Salvador, they would have used it. “ Government lawyers made the case that nothing has changed since the FISA law allowed electronic surveillance, and the NDAA. Hedges said that “Every investigative reporter will tell you that sources have critically dried up since six were charged under the Espionage Act.”

Hedges noted that the difference between FISA and the NDAA was “a quantum deterioration in free speech.” He also said: “NSA surveillance has far more effect on my sources than on me,” he said, but “the NDAA is about me.”

Hedges testified that he believed that his phone was being tapped because in El Salvador and now, it would hang up after one ring, which he had been told was the cue for the start of surveillance recording. Asked if he knew his phone had been tapped in El Salvador, he said, “Yes. Because sometimes there would be an open line and I would hear: “Ministerio de Defenso.” Asked by his attorney if he knew what “associated forces’ meant, he said, “I don’t think we know what ‘associated forces’ are. That’s the reason I’m here.”

Obama’s lawyer asked Hedges if he had ever to his knowledge been identified as a terrorist by the US government. Hedges answered “No.”

In the redirect, Hedges’ lawyer reminded him that he had testified that a US official had advised him, when he had been briefly detained in Saudi Arabia, that he was on a watch list. “What is your understanding of what a watch list is? What are they watching for?”

Hedges: “Terrorists.”

*********************************************************************************

Judge Forrest referred to Obama’s signing statement, noting it referred to ‘trial’ for US citizens but not what kind: “I want to clarify that US citizens wouldn’t be detained without trail. It is unclear what kind of trial they get. Tell me [to government lawyers] what it means to give ‘substantial support.’ I just want one example.”Government lawyer: “I’m not in a position to give an example.”Judge Forrest: “Give me one.”

Obama lawyer: “I can only give you context.”

*********************************************************************************

Judge Forrest was pushing to determine the boundaries of the NDAA law.

Obama’s lawyer said that it would take a case of someone being detained under the NDAA, to find the parameters of the law.

Judge Forrest: “Is it really adequate to say you have to go to a DC court, in detention, to figure this out? Are you going to have to wait for courts other than this one to decide who ‘associated forces’ are? Is this the only way we can figure this out?”

She asked the government lawyer for an example of a boundary around “associated forces.”

Judge Forrest: “I don’t want precision. I want a boundary.”

Obama lawyer: “I don’t have specifics.”

Judge Forrest: “Associated forces”? What are they?”

Pause.

Judge Forrest: “If you can’t stand here and say, “1021 won’t touch Ms O’Brien …unless, if you did, we would be done — if you can’t do that, you leave us in a tough spot here.”

***********************************************************************************

Bruce Afran, lawyer for the plaintiffs, presented the hypothetical of a book that did not say how to make a bomb but simply expressed support for the political goals of the Taliban, or that made the case that the Taliban’s view that the US government overreaches in occupying other countries, has merit. He and Judge Forrest discussed the hypothetical that such a book could be a bestseller and be on a book tour, generating comment throughout the Middle East.

Judge Forrest simplified the example to a hypothetical of a book with only one sentence, and whose only sentence read: “I support the political goals of the Taliban’. She asked the government lawyers if such a book could be read as providing ‘material support’ for ‘associated forces” under the NDAA. They did not rule it out.

Judge Forrest pushed:

“You are unable to say that [such a book ] consisting of political speech could not be captured under [NDAA section] 1021?”
Obama lawyers: “We can’t say that.”

Judge Forrest: “Are you telling me that no US citizen can be detained under 1021?”

Obama lawyer: “That’s not a reasonable fear.”

Judge Forrest: ‘Say it’s reasonable to fear you will be unlucky [and face] detention, trial. What does ‘directly supported’ mean?”

Obama lawyer: “We have not said anything about that…”

Judge Forrest: “What do you think it means? Give me an example that distinguishes between direct and indirect support. Give me a single example.”
Obama lawyers: “We have not come to a position on that.”

Judge Forrest: “So assume you are a US citizen trying not to run afoul of this law. What does it [the phrase] mean to you?”

Obama lawyer: “I couldn’t offer any specific language. I don’t have a specific example.”

Judge Forrest: “You have said “unwitting’ [i.e. that a US citizen would be exempt from the NDAA if the ‘direct support’ or ‘material support’ was ‘unwitting’] which would offer some comfort if you are worried about running afoul of the law. But ‘unwitting’ is not in here. How do I get ‘unwitting’ here?

Obama’s attorney did not answer her question, but noted the fact that Congress had authorized the AUMF, which they argued the NDAA section 1021 and 1022 followed from.

Judge Forrest; “One of you [of the two US government attorneys] has to answer if a demonstration such as Kai Wargalla’s [in Occupy London] is ‘substantial support.”

Obama lawyer: “We have never taken a position re 1021 that independent advocacy [falls under it].”

Judge Forrest: “And you assert today that the Government does not intend to take that position?”

Obama lawyer: “Well…”

Judge Forrest: “You have to give me that or you have a problem here.”

Obama lawyer: “Well, I’m not aware that anyone is taking that position.”

*****************************************************************************

Bruce Afran made the point that ‘support’ is a very vague term – you can offer ‘emotional support’ to a spouse or ‘financial support’ to an organization. A discussion followed about vagueness in the statute, and Judge Forrest pressed the government attorneys to say exactly what ‘material support’ or ‘substantially support’ meant. She was unable to get a definition from them.

“Judge Forrest:”You [government lawyers] have to explain why the statute is not vague if I cannot get a definition under direct questioning [what ‘substantially support’ means]. If you folks can’t say what ‘substantially support’ means, how does an ordinary citizen know? You guys say why, and you win.”

*******************************************************************************

Judge Forrest: “Mr. Hedges — his speaking in Belgium and France [activities his deposition said he had curtailed from fear of the NDAA]: could that subject him to investigation under the NDAA?”

Obama lawyer: “The government has never taken that position in ten years.”

Judge Forrest: “How can you give the plaintiffs comfort that the next person won’t take that position?”
Obama lawyer: “The President says we won’t.”

Judge Forrest noted again that Obama’s signing statement assured people that US citizens would get a “trial”, but that the signing statement does not specify whether it is a military trial or a civilian trial. Judge Forrest: “”They could get a military trial not a civilian trial.”

Obama lawyer: “I would have to look at the statute again.”

Judge Forrest: “It’s extremely carefully worded….President Obama said he was concerned about constitutionality. Ms. Jónsdóttir [the Icelandic Parliamentarian who is afraid of being detained if she comes to the US]: Can she travel to the United States without worrying about being captured?”

Obama lawyer: “The US Embassy represented to her that she won’t be subject to detention and interrogation.” [Ms Jónsdóttir’s affidavit made the point that the US embassy refused to put those assurances in writing, and that the Icelandic government advised her not to travel to the US in that circumstance}.

Judge Forrest:”I’m asking you as a representative of the United States government here today: Can MS Jónsdóttir travel without fear of capture?”

Obama lawyer made the point that they didn’t know what she’d been up to or whom she had met since her affidavit was given.

Judge Forrest: “Given what you know.”

Obama lawyer: “From what we know, the member would not be subject to 1021.”

Judge Forrest:”So you are saying that being associated with Wikileaks won’t [put one] at risk?”

Obama lawyer: “They are not ‘associated forces.”

Judge Forrest: “So being associated with Wikileaks would not subject anyone to detention? Sorry to put you on the spot, but that’s my job.”

Obama lawyer: ”Unless they are Al Qaeda or the Taliban under another name, that is correct.”

Judge Forrest distinguished between journalist and US Day of Rage founder Alexa O’Brien, who does not spend time around people identified by the US government as terrorists, and Chris Hedges, who, as a reporter on such groups, does do so.

Judge Forrest, to the Obama attorney: “Can you say he will not subject to … solitary detention?”

Obama attorney: “I cannot say that today.”

Judge Forrest: “Well, why is [Hedges’ fear] unreasonable: if you have an individual engaged on a regular basis with interviewing, travelling with, “associated forces” [in combat with the US] – and you can’t tell us that his activities won’t subject him to 1021 – why is it [Hedges’ fear] unreasonable?”

Obama lawyer: “Given all the factors – looking at this case, looking at them as a whole, they sufficiently rebut reasonable fear at this stage.”

Judge Forrest: “So the nub of it is I must agree with your position that 1021 does nothing new?”

Obama lawyer: “Yes.”

Judge Forrest: “And I should do this in spite of case law that asserts that Congress writes laws for a reason?”

[Laughter in court.]

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75 Responses to “NDAA hearing notes”

  1. avatar Ryan says:

    Well if this applies to people who provide support to al Qaeda, couldn’t that include Mr. Obama? Mrs. Clinton as well? The U.S. military actions in Libya certainly aided al Qaeda substantially, as we were air dropping weapons to rebel groups that included al Qaeda. Mr Obama authorized that, and Mrs Clinton helped to gain support for that action internationally. Obviously nothing would ever happen to those leaders, but I find the irony pretty… Well… Ironic.

    • avatar OH says:

      It will absolutely happen, Democrats Centrist Moderate sellout scum are going to be the 1st to get detained under NDAA, its a sure thing, thats the silver lining to all of this.

      • Thanks for this REMINDER to everyone of a very good reason that the REAL scum in this country is comprised of the RRR-Cult-infested Republican Party. And on Banner Day 11-6-12 — those chickens finally came home to roost!! The Republicans either must DUMP and repudiate all of its irrational and bigoted agendas — or face accelerating decline farther and deeper into irrelevance, and perhaps even ending up in extinction. Yhey brought their defeat on themselves, and they got exactly what they deserved!

  2. […] A must read: NDAA hearing notes – Naomi Wolf […]

  3. avatar Graham Wells says:

    “The court transcript will be available shortly.” When and where, please?

    • avatar Murkalore says:

      Why should “fundraising” be necessary to acquire a (presumably) public transcript??? Why?

  4. avatar Tray johnson says:

    Why doesnt the judge refuse to accept the obama lawyer’s inability to definitively answer the question? Yhe judge asks the right questions and recieves non-answers. Why is that allowed? He should have to answer the questions or recess until he can

  5. […] NDAA hearing notes ~ Naomi Wolf March 30, 2012 […]

  6. […] Notes from Friday’s NDAA Hearing […]

  7. […] NDAA hearing notes | Naomi Wolf Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  8. avatar Tom says:

    I believe that Judge Scalia’s opinion that “it is the responsibility of the court to rule on the constitutionality of the issue, rather that to attempt to construct some mechanism to legalize that issue”. Not a verbatum quote, but you get the idea. NDAA is clearly unconstitutional, and this judge seems to be trying his level best to find some way to rule otherwise. 90+% of the American people believe this law is unjust and a crime against the American people. That very fact not only trumps the executive branch, but also the legislative AND judicial branches, because we the people, if we feel sufficiently betrayed, have the right to rewrite the Constitution, and hold the entire government criminally liable, try them, and execute sentance upon them. If this “judge” lets this travisty stand, the Republic as we know it, is indeed dead.

  9. […] Naomi Wolf posted notes of standing hearing: NDAA Hearing Notes. […]

  10. avatar | says:

    […] make lice,” and rather than an infected blanket, they found reason to come after her under NDAA – giving comfort to the enemy, presumably by daring to criticize the USA. You see, they […]

  11. CORRECTION:

    Plaintiffs in Round One of this case:

    Chris Hedges
    Daniel Ellsberg
    Noam Chomsky
    Birgitta Jonsdottir
    Jennifer (Tangerine) Bolen
    Alexa O’Brien
    Kai Wargalla

    Transcripts will NOT be available shortly – our team needs to raise $2000 to pay for them, and will commence a fundraiser this week to do so.

  12. avatar B says:

    It would be funny if it wasn’t so sickening.

  13. avatar Aelfwine Nerevar says:

    Who do I send money to for the publication of the transcripts?

  14. […] “Are you telling me that no US citizen can be detained under 1021?” […]

  15. avatar aebe says:

    Wouldn’t the judge have been able to hold the O’Bummer lawyer in contempt ?

  16. avatar law firm says:

    Hi Jessica, I recommend that you contact an attorney if the company will not give you a refund.

  17. avatar Eli Gadison says:

    There is no easy way to cope with mesothelioma. Even before the diagnosis, the disease is undeniably devastating.

  18. […] (from the Naomi Wolf trial notes) “Government lawyers in New York court tell Judge they can’t directly rule out detaining Chris Hedges for reporting, Occupy London for protesting, or the author of a hypothetical book on politics for expressing an opinion, under NDAA sections 1021 and 1022.” […]

  19. avatar Malcntnt1 says:

    This is a Federal Judge. She wants to give the Govt the benefit of the doubt and to explain itself and it is failing. She even helped by ruling against valid defense motions and it’s failing. The more she tries to give the govt opportunity to prove it’s actions lawful the more it WILL fail. If Manning is HUNG it will fail because there IS no defense under law for what they have done to him or plan to do to him for revealing the sordid acts it had thought to lock safely away….

  20. […] is such a crime. It is, really, an act of war against the American people, and more than that, treason and a violation of the oath to uphold the Constitution. An oath every […]

  21. avatar Murkalore says:

    Why is “fundraising” necessary to acquire a (presumably) public transcript???

  22. […] to an unofficial transcript produced by author Naomi Wolf, who attended the meeting and openly supports Hedges, Forrest […]

  23. […] US foreign policy, along lines theater the Taliban might agree with. Again and again (the transcript from my notes is here), the two lawyers said directly that they could not, or would not, give her those assurances. In […]

  24. […] US foreign policy, along lines theater the Taliban might agree with. Again and again (the transcript from my notes is here), the two lawyers said directly that they could not, or would not, give her those assurances. In […]

  25. […] who could be detained under the law – a question which they repeatedly refused to answer – she wrote: “Lawyers for the US government, given several chances by Judge Forrest to do so, would not rule […]

  26. […] US foreign policy, along lines theater the Taliban might agree with. Again and again (the transcript from my notes is here), the two lawyers said directly that they could not, or would not, give her those assurances. In […]

  27. […] US foreign policy, along lines theater the Taliban might agree with. Again and again (the transcript from my notes is here), the two lawyers said directly that they could not, or would not, give her those assurances. In […]

  28. […] US foreign policy, along lines theater the Taliban might agree with. Again and again (the transcript from my notes is here), the two lawyers said directly that they could not, or would not, give her those assurances. In […]

  29. […] US foreign policy, along lines theater the Taliban might agree with. Again and again (the transcript from my notes is here), the two lawyers said directly that they could not, or would not, give her those assurances. In […]

  30. […] who could be detained under the law – a question which they repeatedly refused to answer – she wrote: “Lawyers for the US government, given several chances by Judge Forrest to do so, would not rule […]

  31. […] who could be detained under the law – a question which they repeatedly refused to answer – she wrote: “Lawyers for the US government, given several chances by Judge Forrest to do so, would not rule […]

  32. […] US foreign policy, along lines theater the Taliban might agree with. Again and again (the transcript from my notes is here), the two lawyers said directly that they could not, or would not, give her those assurances. In […]

  33. […] who could be detained under the law – a question which they repeatedly refused to answer – she wrote: “Lawyers for the US government, given several chances by Judge Forrest to do so, would not rule […]

  34. […] who could be detained under the law – a question which they repeatedly refused to answer – she wrote: “Lawyers for the US government, given several chances by Judge Forrest to do so, would not rule […]

  35. […] be assured that he would not be subjected to detention under Section 1021, journalist Naomi Wolf noted. Hedges is a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who has worked extensively in […]

  36. […] be assured that he would not be subjected to detention under Section 1021, journalist Naomi Wolf noted. Hedges is a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who has worked extensively in Afghanistan and the […]

  37. […] In the recent hearing on a lawsuit challenging that section of the act, Judge Katherine Forrest asked an Obama lawyer if plaintiff Chris Hedges could be assured that he would not be subjected to detention under Section 1021, journalist Naomi Wolf noted. […]

  38. […] In the recent hearing on a lawsuit challenging that section of the act, Judge Katherine Forrest asked an Obama lawyer if plaintiff Chris Hedges could be assured that he would not be subjected to detention under Section 1021, journalist Naomi Wolf noted. […]

  39. […] let’s quickly recap exactly how weak the government case in favor of the NDAA actually was. In Hedges v. Obama, the government routinely avoided the judge’s questions and […]

  40. […] quickly recap exactly how weak the government case in favor of the NDAA actually was. In Hedges v. Obama, the government routinely avoided the judge’s questions and demands: The Court: When we are […]

  41. […] quickly recap exactly how weak the government case in favor of the NDAA actually was. In Hedges v. Obama, the government routinely avoided the judge’s questions and demands: The Court: When we are […]

  42. […] let’s quickly recap exactly how weak the government case in favor of the NDAA actually was. In Hedges v. Obama, the government routinely avoided the judge’s questions and demands: The Court: When we are […]

  43. […] let’s quickly recap exactly how weak the government case in favor of the NDAA actually was. In Hedges v. Obama, the government routinely avoided the judge’s questions and […]

  44. […] let’s quickly recap exactly how weak the government case in favor of the NDAA actually was. In Hedges v. Obama, the government routinely avoided the judge’s questions and […]

  45. […] let’s quickly recap exactly how weak the government case in favor of the NDAA actually was. In Hedges v. Obama, the government routinely avoided the judge’s questions and […]

  46. […] let’s quickly recap exactly how weak the government case in favor of the NDAA actually was. In Hedges v. Obama, the government routinely avoided the judge’s questions and […]

  47. […] let’s quickly recap exactly how weak the government case in favor of the NDAA actually was. In Hedges v. Obama, the government routinely avoided the judge’s questions and […]

  48. […] let’s quickly recap exactly how weak the government case in favor of the NDAA actually was. In Hedges v. Obama, the government routinely avoided the judge’s questions and […]

  49. […] let’s quickly recap exactly how weak the government case in favor of the NDAA actually was. In Hedges v. Obama, the government routinely avoided the judge’s questions and […]

  50. […] let’s quickly recap exactly how weak the government case in favor of the NDAA actually was. In Hedges v. Obama, the government routinely avoided the judge’s questions and […]

    • avatar Joey says:

      Rand is playing the nessreacy game of politics in order to get things done and move forward with his career. His father was the torchbearer of the libertarian movement and was needed as an ideological father in order to spur factions within the NeoCon establishment. Look at how many people running for office and who have gained office that were motivated by Ron and his work as a Congressman. Rand would not be able to do what he is doing without his father. What he is doing is much needed and he knows exactly how Washington works. He knows what it means to vote with leadership and against leadership. It’s naive to think that things can get done in such a pure fashion which is often so eloquently stated on the political blogosphere. It’s Washington and it’s a game of chess. Remember, Ron played the game too in order to get some things done (like bringing money back to his district). All politicians do it and know it’s nessreacy. What they do it FOR is what matters. I honestly believe Rand is doing what he is doing to gain momentum, credibility and a position to bring about change over the long-term. Politics is strategy just as much as it is ideology.

  51. […] let’s quickly recap exactly how weak the government case in favor of the NDAA actually was. In Hedges v. Obama, the government routinely avoided the judge’s questions and […]

  52. […] let’s quickly recap exactly how weak the government case in favor of the NDAA actually was. In Hedges v. Obama, the government routinely avoided the judge’s questions and […]

  53. […] to some witnesses from the occupy group, the government could not adequately answer one important question. The […]

    • avatar Perry says:

      As a member of 1st Baptist FC, I want to Praise the Lord!!! for the Beautiful Easter Service Sunday 03/30/13. The devil had tryed eveyhtring possible to destroy the worship service before things got started. But Praise God! The Lord won the war.Great Worship in Baptism, Worship thru the Music, and the MESSAGE from God.Thank you Jesus.Now if you missed the Easter Production Sunday evening, SHAME ON YOU!!!!

  54. […] dissent, such as opposing the draft, was constitutional. The NDAA provisions can similarly serve to place limits on free speech and a free press.  Another amicus brief filed in the NDAA case, by the Government […]

  55. […] dissent, such as opposing the draft, was constitutional. The NDAA provisions can similarly serve to place limits on free speech and a free press.  Another amicus brief filed in the NDAA case, by the Government […]

  56. […] dissent, such as opposing the draft, was constitutional. The NDAA provisions can similarly serve to place limits on free speech and a free press.  Another amicus brief filed in the NDAA case, by the […]

  57. […] let’s quickly recap exactly how weak the government case in favor of the NDAA actually was. In Hedges v. Obama, the government routinely avoided the judge’s questions and […]

  58. […] what associated forces meant, said “I don’t think we know what ‘associated forces’ are. That’s the reason I’m here.” The “Freedom 7” believe that the 2012 NDAA vastly expands the targeting profile and […]

  59. You realize thus considerably in the case of this matter, produced me in my view consider it from a lot of numerous angles. Its like men and women don’t seem to be fascinated until it is something to do with Woman gaga! Your own stuffs outstanding. Always take care of it up!

    • avatar Santiago says:

      I have to agree with you here. At the end of the day, the choice was his to eiethr sign or veto the bill, and he chose to sign it. A huge disappointment, both in his signature and the general inattention of the media to this particular provision. And the U.S. government moves one step closer to trying to replicate the U.S.S.R.

  60. avatar Ken says:

    Its all about the language. With a document like that its complete military rule. They can lock me up forever, when someone comes knocking, why is he locked away? He has ties to terrorists. What ties? I cannot disclose that information, its a matter of national security. Its tolaltarian rule. This countries getting ridiculous. I wouldn’t be surprised if 12 million people took to the streets like in Egypt just to say give me my country back.

  61. […] During preliminary injunction hearings: […]

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