Now is the time to talk about liberty

The tragic Boston Marathon bombings have generated powerful conversations about homegrown terrorism versus attacks by foreigners. About how easy it is to jump to conclusions in the wake of disaster, and about how difficult it is these days to feel truly safe.

I wonder, then, if this isn't the perfect weekend to attend one of a series of forums related to the controversial National Defense Authorization Act, the military spending bill that includes a provision allowing the executive branch to detain US citizens indefintely and without due process.

Last year, this provision drew the ire of high-profile journalists like Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and Chris Hedges, as well as several state governments. Just last week, for example, the California Assembly's Public Safety Committee unanimously approved a bill that would nullify any federal law (such as the NDAA) that authorizes infinite detention in violation of habeus corpus.

From Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, the Republican who sponsored the bill:

“The NDAA gives the executive branch—under not only President Obama, but also every future president—unprecedented power to detain US citizens without due process. This runs counter to the very principles that make America great, and violates our nation’s commitment to the rule of law,” said Assemblyman Donnelly.
He continued, “We have a moral duty to protect Californians from the disastrous consequences made possible by NDAA. When Constitutional protections are ignored, racist hysteria allows vulnerable groups to be targeted. It was not long ago we memorialized the tragedy of Japanese American internment camps on the floor of the California State Assembly. I am grateful for today’s committee vote, which shows Californians that their representatives are serious about ensuring similar violations of freedom and human rights abuses never happen again within our State.”


The NDAA is currently in court -- the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in Manhattan, to be precise -- and a decision is expected in June. 

But now -- when tempers are hot and fear is in the air -- is when scary laws that violate our civil liberties get pushed through without thorough examination. Now is the time to educate yourself about how the US government actually deals with terror suspects. Now is the time to consider how much you're willing to accept or ignore in the name of public safety.

With that in mind, here are the dates and times for this weekend's NDAA forums, which will include talks from Debra Sweet, national spokesperson for the NY-based The World Can't Wait and Michael Figura of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee:

    * Bangor Friday, April 19 6:30-9:00 PM at Peace and Justice Center
    * Belfast Saturday, April 20 2:30-5:00 PM at the Belfast Library
    * Brunswick Sunday, April 21 11:00 - 1:30 PM at the Brunswick Library
    * Portland Sunday, April 21 6:00-8:30 PM at the Allen Ave. Unitarian-Universalist Church


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