Justice Department Goes To Bat For "Homegrown Terrorism" Act

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Suffrage.jpgLast week, we saw Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's strategic flip flopping on whether "homegrown terror" constitutes the U.S's greatest terror threat.

Now we see language from the Homegrown Terrorism Act popping up in last Friday's seemingly strategically timed plea agreements from two men who were caught in a Los Angeles-area terror plot. This is not incredibly surprising, given that this case supposedly inspired the Act. But we have to wonder if it's a coincidence that the pleas are being entered now, while we await Senate debate on the Act. From a Justice Department press release:

In plea agreements filed this morning and court proceedings conducted this morning in United States District Court in Santa Ana, James and Washington admitted that they conspired “to levy war against the government of the United States through terrorism, and to oppose by force the authority of the United States government.”
Isn't enough that these men were caught in a heinous terrorist plot? That should put them safely away. Why the need to get them to use language about opposing the government's authority? What was their incentive to do so?

Further, what is "force?" Aren't we obligated as patriotic citizens to constantly question our government's authority? Like the suffragists on hunger strikes who were force-fed in prison? Like Civil Rights marchers?  From the bill:
The term ‘homegrown terrorism’ means the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.
This ambiguous application of "force" could mean a dangerous curtailment of citizens' rights to pursue "social objectives."

Another note on timing: the trumpeting of this plea came the day after a big blow to the Justice Department's attempts to define pre-criminal intent as terrorism when a Miami jury failed to convict seven men in a jihadist plot that hadn't yet gotten off the ground:

The outcome was a significant defeat for the Bush administration, which had described the case as a major crackdown on homegrown terrorists.

Officials had acknowledged that the defendants, known as the Liberty City Seven for the depressed section of Miami where they frequently gathered in a rundown warehouse, had never acquired weapons or equipment and had posed no immediate threat. But, the officials said, the case underscored a need for pre-emptive terrorism prosecutions.

Though we absolutely MUST tenaciously prevent terrorist acts, doesn't criminalizing pre-criminal thought and behavior set a dangerous precedent? We know that the Homegrown Terrorism bill emerged from RAND Corporation research and targets non-terrorist dissenters:

“In their international campaign, the jihadists will seek common grounds with leftist, anti-American, and anti-globalization forces, who will in turn see, in radical Islam, comrades against a mutual foe.”

Also of note a Rand study Trends in Terrorism" Chapter 4 on homegrown terrorism – advocated special attention to environmentalist, Anti-globalization activist and anarchists as potentially new terrorist in the making.
Given this context of trying to lump environmentalists in with jihadists and to criminalize traditionally protected forms of dissent, we have to hope that major media outlets avoid the temptation to simply regurgitate the press release. Will we see in-depth, nuanced coverage of the assumptions underlying the "Homegrown Terrorism" bill? And their consequences for the First Amendment?

Will you write to your Senators and let them know how frightened you are by the bill?

Center for Constitutional Rights: Fact Sheet on the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007


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This is typical action by our current administration. We must also remember that a beloved liberal democrat, Franklin Roosevelt, imprisoned innocent Japanese American families.

Still, this effort is far more methodical. The goal by this extreme fringe that is somehow in control right now is to permanently lock the United States into a military mindset, with the accompanying paranoia such as arresting and imprisoning people for their "pre-terrorist" thoughts.

If you want to know how that works out, read or view "Minority Report".

jonolan said:

The verbiage was used because defendants must state the crime that they committed in the terms used by the Courts System. They have to state what statute they violated.

It's the standard form, not a piece of propaganda.

Kyeann said:

But what statute have they violated? As far as I know, the language of "force" emerges from FBI definitions, and is not yet a legal definition.

Evan said:

Not that I'm a right-winger or libertarian, far from it, but it ought to be mentioned that most of these Orwellian "crimes" were defined in Bill Clinton's 1996 "Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act," rather than in anything the Bushies are doing.

Kyeann said:


That's interesting -- I'm eager to know more about how legal definitions of terrorism relate to "sedition," which is apparently where the language about force comes from. The problem with being a lay person who's interested in this stuff is that there is so much to learn. I do know that the rendition program was started under Clinton/Gore. I haven't heard of any journalists asking them what they think about what became of their initial authorization. Seems like it should be mentioned when discussing Gore's Peace Prize...

Easily, the post is actually the best on this deserving topic. I fit in with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your upcoming updates.

Pretty insightful post. Never thought that it was this simple after all. I had spent a good deal of my time looking for someone to explain this subject clearly and you’re the only one that ever did that. Kudos to you! Keep it up

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Six Hours A Week Is:

A coping strategy, advocacy outlet, and form of protection. My life has been nearly destroyed by the unconstitutional practices of politically/socially-motivated private intelligence contractors and the corruption and cronyism that allow them. Apparently because I speak out in ways that prioritize the little guy and human and environmental health above gargantuan profit margins, and believe that facts are as important as PR spin, I was someone who had to be completely discredited. In 2007, after a few months of a surreal and relentless invasion of privacy and dignity, I started to spend six hours each week researching, communicating about, and advocating legal and ethical responses to assaults on our shared democratic and republican ideals. For most of that time I was writing from the perspective of someone whose life was manipulated into a constant state of terror and emergency. In 2010, many of the array of entrapment attempts seem to have failed and it seems no longer possible to get away with such excessive, obvious harassment and overt interference. As we take more practical steps to address what has been allowed to happen to my family, we do expect to see some more harassment and intimidation. But I should be able to chronicle it from a more measured perspective, rather than that of someone in constant fear. Part of me would like to go back and delete earlier posts, because even I find them hard to relate to in some ways. But this blog has been one of our only forms of protection as everyone in any official capacity ignored the truth and tried to spin and frame us into the troublemakers and perpetrators of one form or another. So I leave it up as a form of protection, a record of what has occurred, and (with luck) the account of our way back to credibility and some form of legitimate justice. All content on this site is property of Kyeann Sayer. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Kyeann published on December 16, 2007 4:24 PM.

Our Biggest Terrorist Threat? Chertoff Contradicts Himself was the previous entry in this blog.

The U.S. is Now an "Endemic Surveillance Society" is the next entry in this blog.

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