National Security Network executive director Heather Hurlburt led off her remarks with a breaking news bulletin: parents were ahead at half time by one point in the Takoma Park Elementary School parents-staff basketball game.
Turning serious, Ms. Hurlburt immediately put the NDAA issue — and why opposition to it is essential – in stark terms: “…as bad as what was passed in the NDAA is, it is a symptom of a much deeper problem which is going to keep coming back … in Congress until there is a firm bipartisan message sent that the American people don’t want any more of these laws.”
What were the drafters of NDAA Sections 1021 and 1022 trying to achieve? Hurlburt identified a number of motives:
- to declare (in Senator Lindsay Graham’s words) that “the homeland is the battlefield” — with the implication that burgeoning military, intelligence, and law enforcement powers outside the U.S. could and should be extended to within it. (“Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman were shockingly explicit about that on the floor of the Senate.”)
- to no longer restrict the Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) to Al Qaeda operational areas – a goal not achieved with this NDAA, but sure to be attempted again.
- to militarize the justice system for apprehended terror suspects
- to chip away at the idea that everyone has the same constitutional rights
So why work at the local level rather than the federal one to oppose these things? Far from being a non sequitur, Hurlburt said that local activism on this issue now was more important than talking to federal legislators:
“…we had a lot of members of Congress who were scared of what the media could do to them, they were scared of taking any vote that could be pictured as being weak on terrorism. Ten years after 9/11 this is a moment to finally communicate to members of Congress that there are other things that the American public cares about than being perceived as weak on terrorism. And we’ve finally reached the moment where we can have that conversation. [...]
This is really a chance at the local level to find every creative way we have to say “hey, federal legislators, if you all will actually step up and do what we know you know is right in the first place, you will not be punished for it.” And that’s why I’m actually really happy to be doing work at the local level because I literally think this is more important than talking to members of Congress right now, because they all know — they’ve all read all the position papers, they’ve read all the outcry, what they don’t know is whether they’re safe to do what is right. “