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Domestic terrorism and its consequences for civil liberties

by Thomas Sbrega, published

Recently America has witnessed two notable acts of— what some are calling— domestic terrorism.  Most recent was the Pentagon shooter.  John Patrick Bedell drove from California to Washington DC in order to open fire on the Pentagon with two 9mm handguns and a trunk full of ammunition.  He injured two officers before being shot down himself, on March 4th.  Exactly two weeks earlier (Feb 18th), Andrew Joseph Stack III flew his plane into an Austin (TX) IRS building.  Both had left behind manifestos. 

Immediately after the Austin crash, it was evident that the bulk of the media made certain not to classify this as an act of terrorism. The Department of Homeland Security released a statement saying: “At this time, we have no reason to believe there is a nexus to terrorist activity,” as reported by CNN.  Neither case appears to be a “lone wolf” operation either, which the FBI defines as an individual on the fringes of a formal extremist group.  Hopefully this assessment holds, because if an “extremist group” was identified (according to their manifestos), it would most likely include someone you know.  That is, their rants and raves are not too dissimilar to that of many modern day protesters.

With that said, in a literal sense, it is hard to argue that they are not terrorists.  According to 1984 US Army manuals, the definition of terrorism is “the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature...through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear.”  In April 2008 the CFR published Militant Extremists in the United States, which stated that the USA Patriot Act “defines domestic terrorism as criminal acts that are ‘dangerous to human life’ and seem to be meant to scare civilians or affect policy,” noting that “civil rights groups have expressed concern that this definition is overly broad.” 

If the definitions above are used, then the question ought to be whether or not the two perpetrators were acting senselessly with serious mental illness, or consciously with a “goal” in mind to “affect policy” and enforce an “ideology”.  For anyone familiar with the case, the answer is undoubtedly the latter.  Although mental illness is said to play a role in both cases (naturally), they also had definite goals.

In 2007, Wikipedia displayed a post allegedly written by the Pentagon shooter, under the name JPatrickBedell” (post now removed – it can still be found here).  Within the post, the author seeks justice for the “death of Colonel James Sabow” in 1991, which was ruled a suicide despite evidence to the contrary (he was found in his backyard beaten badly, for one).  He somehow associates this case with the “coup” regime of 1963 (indicating LBJ’s assumption of the presidency after the assassination of JFK).  He maintains that this regime is responsible for the “global drug trade, financial corruption, and murder, among other crimes.”  He then mentions September 11th very briefly, referring it to a “demolition,” then makes an interesting comment comparing himself to “the odd German still complaining about the murders of the Night of the Long Knives” (when Hitler transferred power from the SA to the SS via a series of assassinations).  Obviously this man was educated well and followed government conspiracy closer than most (JFK and 9/11 theories are well known, but who is Colonel Sabow, and what is his connection?).

Joe Stack wrote a manifesto as well, with a defined ideology and goal.  When Joe Stack was young with little money for food, he lived across an elderly woman who tried to convince him that eating cat food was “healthier” than bread and peanut butter.  Her husband worked 30 years in a mill and lost his pension and medical care upon retirement due to incompetent management and a corrupt union.  After his demise, she found herself in poor financial shape, to say the least.  This early life lesson left him determined not to rely on “big business” and to take care of his own retirement.  After years of self-employment, he details his battle with the IRS and new tax laws that strongly favored large corporations and thereby strangled his financial fortitude beyond repair.  

Joe was convinced that there “are two ‘interpretations’ for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us,” and that “the monsters are the very ones making and enforcing the laws,” sentiments many would agree with today.  He concludes in the end that without a body count nothing will ever change.  He sacrificed his life in order to prove this conclusion. 

He was right, but not in the positive way he anticipated.  Thanks to him and the “Pentagon shooter,” more stringent legislation will befall innocent American citizens. Coincidentally, on the same day as the Pentagon attack, Senators McCain and Lieberman introduced the ‘‘Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010’’.  If protesters and other 1st Amendment practitioners thought their rights to a fair trial were in jeopardy before, this bill will add a new dimension of legality to previously questionable detainment.  As the New American points out:

     The bill's definition of “enemy belligerent” could be interpreted to mean a number of things. The bill tells us (Sec. 6, paragraph 9): “The term 'unprivileged enemy belligerent' means an individual … who (a) has engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; (b) has purposely and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or (c) was a part of al Qaeda at the time of capture.” Note the or in that sentence (italics added). It is very important…  Anyone who fits those other provisions, whatever they mean, could be detained under this Act.

Definitions (a) and (b) use the term “hostilities” as a way to identify an individual susceptible to this Act.  The definitions of the word “hostile” are:

1. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of an enemy: a hostile nation.

2. opposed in feeling, action, or character; antagonistic: hostile criticism.

3. characterized by antagonism.

4. not friendly, warm, or generous; not hospitable.

Does this include the many journalists, protesters and amateur bloggers “not friendly” or “opposed in feeling” towards the actions of our government or its “coalition partners”?  The implications of this Act are dreadful.  Unfortunately, domestic terrorism or, however you define the recent acts of these desperate individuals only gives more motive (read: excuses) to offer up legislation such as this.

If you sympathize in part with their manifestos, rest assured that you are not crazy.  However, please do the rest of us a favor and write your representatives instead of resorting to violent acts.  The results are horrendous, not only from a human life perspective, but a legislative one as well.

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