Justice Department Goes To Bat For "Homegrown Terrorism" Act
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.”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?
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.
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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