By Joe Jarvis
To authorize dedicated domestic terrorism offices within the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to analyze and monitor domestic terrorist activity and require the Federal Government to take steps to prevent domestic terrorism.
The FBI defines domestic terrorism as “U.S.-based movements that espouse extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.”
But what is an extremist ideology? It’s easy to see on one end of the spectrum, once violence happens. But the FBI sees the progression as “crossing the line from First Amendment protected rights to committing crimes to further their political agenda.”
It sounds like they are saying speaking out is a precursor to terrorism. Exercising rights is suspicious.
The bill makes repeated reference to “patriot” groups as well as “anti-government militias.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, in 2015, for the first time in 5 years, the number of hate groups in the United States rose by 14 percent. The increase included a more than twofold rise in the number of Ku Klux Klan chapters. The number of anti-government militias and “patriot” groups also grew by 14 percent in 2015.
The problem is that one government agency already targeted innocent people based on their affiliation to the word “patriot.” The IRS targeted Tea Party Patriots for scrutiny and intimidation by asking intrusive questions far out of the purview of tax collectors.
Now government policing agencies want to associate “patriots” and militias with the KKK and other racist groups. This bill throws out a large net, and innocent people are going to get caught up in it.
“Anti-government militias” and white supremacists should absolutely not be under the same label. They have entirely different motivations. The militias are defensive, seeking to protect themselves from government abuse. History has proven the need for a robust check on government military and policing power.
In fact without militia-like entities, Cliven Bundy and his family may be in prison or dead right now.
Yet Bundy was recently cleared after extensive corruption of the FBI and Bureau of Land Management was revealed in their attempts to prosecute Cliven Bundy. We know these agencies are politically motivated. We know they often have ulterior motives for targeting people.
The government pushes this bill as a response to 77 deaths by domestic extremists in the USA since September 11, 2001, and 255 deaths from right-wing extremists since 1993.
In 1993 alone the government killed 77 people in one incident during the Waco siege! Without Bundy’s “militia” they may have done the same to him and his family.
So-called “anti-government militias” seem like a better way to keep people safe than new powers for the Department of Homeland Security.
Antifa vs. White Supremacists
It shouldn’t be a problem that the bill targets white supremacists. They are after all responsible for violence, including the tragic killing spree carried out by Dyan Roof on a church congregation.
But “Trump supporter” is now synonymous with “white supremacist” to the mainstream media. How often do you hear people throw out the charge of “racism!” when something has nothing to do with race?
Antifa is a far-left group of fascists that call themselves anti-fascists. They ironically claim to be against fascism while destroying property and violently attacking anyone who disagrees with them. But all too often protesters are grouped in with these rioters.
The bill cites these two extremist caricatures. But they apply these monikers to much broader segments of the population than they actually encompass.
For example, a protest–protected free speech–may quickly be labeled an Antifa riot or a white supremacist rally because of the affiliation of 1% of the protesters.
These relatively tiny groups are being magnified by the media.
And it is difficult to get exact numbers on the movements.
But the Antifa facebook page has a worldwide following of under 282,000. With 2.2 billion active users, that is less than one-tenth of one percent of Facebook users that show support for Antifa.
During the recent surge of right-wing extremist activity in the United States that began in 2009, white supremacists did not grow appreciably in numbers, as anti-government extremists did, but existing white supremacists did become more angry and agitated, with a consequent rise of serious white supremacist violence.
See what they did there?
While admitting that the white supremacist numbers haven’t grown, they associate “anti-government extremists” with racist hate groups. Given that they claim this right-wing extremism grew in 2009, they are likely referring to Tea Party groups. To them, being pro-limited government, and anti-government oppression equals “anti-government extremist.”
Skeptics think the government actually created or radicalized Antifa and white supremacist groups. This allows them to associate peaceful protesters on the left and the right with actual violent extremists. By radicalizing tiny elements of groups who have good reason to protest the government, they create strawmen to argue against and use to justify bills like the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act.
They can’t outlaw peaceful protests. But they can insert violent extremists–or agent provocateurs–into every rally, and use that as an excuse to shoot tear gas and call in the riot police.
The FBI often targeted particularly vulnerable people, including those with intellectual and mental disabilities and the indigent. The government, often acting through informants, then actively developed the plot, persuading and sometimes pressuring the targets to participate, and provided the resources to carry it out…
The US has also made overly broad use of material support charges, punishing behavior that did not demonstrate an intent to support terrorism. The courts have accepted prosecutorial tactics that may violate fair trial rights, such as introducing evidence obtained by coercion, classified evidence that cannot be fairly contested, and inflammatory evidence about terrorism in which defendants played no part – and asserting government secrecy claims to limit challenges to surveillance warrants.
A Huffington Post article draws concern about the increase in white supremacist domestic terrorism. In 2017 white supremacists murdered 18 people, while in 2016 white supremacists killed only 7.
Every one of those deaths is a tragedy. But with such small numbers, the statistics tell us nothing. Any given American has an effective 0.000006% chance of becoming the murder victim of a white supremacist.
Two victims in those statistics were the parents of the killer’s ex-girlfriend, who had convinced their daughter to break up with her racist boyfriend. Again, I am not minimizing the horror white supremacists inflict on those around them.
But it is misleading to classify that as a domestic terrorist attack. And it seems unlikely that a dedicated domestic terrorism office within the Department of Homeland security would have prevented it.
To be clear, I am not concerned about the government targeting white supremacists. The problem is labeling people white supremacists in order to monitor them. For instance, the bill uses right-wing extremist and white supremacist almost interchangeably. And then it throws in some “anti-government”.
Well, they might very well consider being against the government’s violence “anti-government.”
Comparatively, it is amazing that they are concerned about 387 people killed by domestic terrorists over the last decade (Note: this Huffington Post number is higher than government figures because it includes domestic attacks attributed to foreign movements like ISIS).
They left out the biggest domestic terrorist organization of all. Conveniently, no government organization tracks the number of people killed by the police. But the Washington Post has tracked American police killings since 2015.
In 2015-2017 American police killed a total of 2,945 people. It took only three years for police to kill more than seven times the number of people killed in all domestic terrorist attacks in the last ten years.
All Boiled Down:
The actual threat of domestic terrorism is greatly exaggerated. Federal law enforcement already engages in entrapment tactics, which would likely expand under the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act. The government’s propensity towards violence is actually a larger threat to Americans than domestic terrorism. Their targetting blurs the lines between peaceful activists/ concerned citizens and Antifa/ white supremacists.
To protect innocent people exercising free speech and freedom of expression from intrusive surveillance and targetting by dangerous government organizations, this bill should be rejected.