Notable left-wing polemicist Professor Noam Chomsky has made a career of writing and speaking out against government abuses of civil liberties in the United States and abroad. In the 2008 Presidential election, the professor endorsed Barack Obama but contended that the youthful Presidential candidate would have little positive or negative impact on civil liberty.
Chomsky now says he is surprised and disgusted by the current President’s inexplicable “attack” on civil liberties, which he said goes beyond anything he could have ever imagined.
In an interview, Chomsky told the liberal blog Alternet:
I personally never expected anything of Obama, and wrote about it before the 2008 primaries. I thought it was smoke and mirrors. The one thing that did surprise me is his attack on civil liberties. They go well beyond anything I would have anticipated, and they don’t seem easy to explain. In many ways the worst is what you mention, Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project. That’s an Obama initiative and it’s a very serious attack on civil liberties. He doesn’t gain anything from it — he doesn’t get any political mileage out of it. In fact, most people don’t even know about it, but what it does is extend the concept of “material assistance to terror” to speech.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project that the broad application of a Federal law prohibits human rights and humanitarian aid organizations from communicating with foreign terror organizations (FTOs) or providing aid supplies to areas where they are known to operate in efforts to promote peaceful conflict resolution. Individuals face up to 15 years in prison for providing “material support” to FTOs, even if their work is intended to promote peaceful, lawful objectives. “[M]aterial support” is defined to include any “service,” “training,” “expert advice or assistance” or “personnel.”
“And the wording of the colloquy is broad enough that it could very well mean that if, say, you meet with someone in a terrorist group and advise them to turn to nonviolent means, then that’s material assistance to terrorism.” Chomsky said, “I’ve met with people who are on the list and will continue to do so, and Obama wants to criminalize that, which is a plain attack on freedom of speech. I just don’t understand why he’s doing it.”
The professor has also taken issue with Obama’s continuation of an executive branch power grab that was sparked in reaction to the 9/11 attacks by the Administration of George W. Bush.
“What it is is the same kind of commitment to expanding executive power that Cheney and Rumsfeld had. He kind of puts it in mellifluous terms and there’s a little difference in his tone,” he said. “It’s not as crude and brutal as they were, but it’s pretty hard to see much of a difference.”
Through the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, continuous harsh prosecution of whistle-blowers, the growing surveillance state and extrajudicial execution, the Obama Administration has set the United States on course for tyranny that would make some of history’s most unjust leaders proud, according to the professor.
“It’s interesting to see the way in which due process is being reinterpreted by Obama’s Justice Department in regards to the drone killings. Attorney General Eric Holder was asked why the administration was killing people without due process.” Chomsky continued, “Well, there was due process, he said, because they discuss it within the executive branch. King John in the 13th century would have loved that.”