News Release

The State of the Union: Is Rule of Law in Peril or Is it No More?


Hedges just wrote the piece “The NDAA and the Death of the Democratic State,” which states: “On Wednesday a few hundred activists crowded into the courtroom of the Second Circuit, the spillover room with its faulty audio feed and dearth of chairs, and Foley Square outside the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in Manhattan where many huddled in the cold. The fate of the nation, we understood, could be decided by the three judges who will rule on our lawsuit against President Barack Obama for signing into law Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act.

“The section permits the military to detain anyone, including U.S. citizens, who ‘substantially support’ — an undefined legal term — al-Qaida, the Taliban or ‘associated forces,’ again a term that is legally undefined. Those detained can be imprisoned indefinitely by the military and denied due process until ‘the end of hostilities.’ In an age of permanent war this is probably a lifetime. Anyone detained under the NDAA can be sent … to any ‘foreign country or entity.’ This is, in essence, extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens. It empowers the government to ship detainees to the jails of some of the most repressive regimes on earth.

“Section 1021(b)(2) was declared invalid in September after our first trial, in the Southern District Court of New York. The Obama administration appealed the Southern District Court ruling.” Hedges is lead plaintiff in the NDAA lawsuit. His most recent book is The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress and he was part of a team of New York Times reporters who won a Pulitzer Prize.

MICHAEL RATNER, mratner at, @justleft
Ratner is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He said today: “The rule of law is not in peril; it is no more. The country under Obama is utterly lawless. There is nothing legal or moral about murdering with drones or assassinations, continuing indefinite detention, military commissions and renditions. There is nothing legal or moral about attacking other countries such as Yemen, Pakistan or Libya. There is nothing legal or moral about a massive surveillance state. And then just to make sure no one reveals our evil we persecute and jail our truth tellers: [Julian] Assange, [Bradley] Manning, [Jeremy] Hammond, [John] Kirakou, while the real criminals go free. What you are seeing here is the recognition by the U.S. that it is weakening as a world power and it is striking out in ways that aren’t always rational but that are certainly inhuman and lawless.”

Ratner notes in “The Ratner Report” on The Real News Network: “We’ve been litigating this issue for a number of years now. The Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU represent the family of Anwar al-Aulaqi, as well as [his 16-year-old son] Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, who were killed by drones in Yemen.”

SHAHID BUTTAR, [email], @Sheeyahshee
Buttar is executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. He said today: “The civil liberties abuses of the Bush administration, and their continuing extension by the Obama administration, have reduced our Constitution to a shadow of itself. This week’s State of the Union address offers a disturbing reminder that, in 2013, America can not be plausibly described as ‘the land of the free.’

“Our supposedly ‘free’ country imprisons more people than any other on Earth, including China — which has a much larger population, and a longstanding reputation for abusing rights.

“Our supposedly ‘free’ country actively suppresses dissent. Instead of enjoying meaningful First Amendment rights to speech, assembly, and the right to petition our government, the peaceful Occupy movement was targeted by federal and state authorities for surveillance, infiltration, disruption, and violent suppression. Occupy activists in several states, like peace activists, environmental activists, and labor organizers, have been charged (and in many cases, convicted) of terror offenses.

“In our supposedly ‘free’ country, the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures has collapsed. Congress recently approved mass warrantless wiretapping by the NSA, which operates not only in secret, but under a secret budget at a time when politicians claim to face a budget crisis. Meanwhile, the FBI unapologetically infiltrates faith institutions and peaceful activist groups, creating a national biometric identity scheme under cover of facilitating immigration enforcement, and faking the results of its forensic investigations. Even local police routinely work as spies, using drones and other military technology to monitor Americans for activities as ‘suspicious’ as drawing and taking notes.

“Our supposedly ‘free’ country also abuses more fundamental rights. Anyone, including citizens, is subject to arbitrary military detention without trial or proof of crime, or outright assassination by the CIA, a secret civilian agency for which the White House has announced a nominee for Director whom the Senate should reject. Brennan refuses to acknowledge that torture (which the CIA recently conducted as a matter of policy before destroying much of the evidence) is a crime. Brennan has not, and can not, explain the national security justification for drone strikes given their profound strategic risks. And Brennan hasn’t even faced questions about the CIA training domestic police departments, like the NYPD, in violation of its statutory charter.

“Finally, our supposedly ‘free’ country practices unequal justice. While millions face prosecution for relatively minor offenses, the architects of U.S. human rights abuses include a federal appellate judge wielding a lifetime appointment and six figure government paycheck. Whistleblowers, like the NSA’s Thomas Drake and the CIA’s John Kiriakou, face prison sentences not for committing crimes, but for revealing them to the public.

“Neither the President nor his partisan critics are likely to note these issues this week, but Americans feel their impact every day. Under each of the past two presidents, executive fiat, enabling legislative statutes and judicial formalism have combined to shred our Constitution and transform America from a ‘land of the free’ into a land that loudly proclaims freedom while denying it to our own people.”