Critics warn against new domestic terror laws being used against legit protest


“There are already plenty of tools at the government’s disposal to crack down on far-right insurrection,” The Week‘s Ryan Cooper wrote in a column on Sunday.

The problem, Cooper argued, is not a lack of laws but rather a deficiency of will from “police departments and security agencies [that] are composed largely of conservative Republicans, and not a few open fascists.” Putting new laws in place would only hand law enforcement agencies additional weapons to wield against the left, Cooper wrote.

“If you just charge the existing agencies with breaking up domestic insurgent networks, at best they will shirk, delay, and drag their feet, and at worst they will completely ignore the fascists while turning any new tools against Black Lives Matter and other left-wing protesters,” said Cooper. “Indeed, this is already happening—so far, the charges against the fascist mob have been trespassing or other minor crimes, rather than the felony riot charges the leftist J20 defendants faced for simply being near minor property destruction in downtown D.C. on the day of Trump’s inauguration.”

DOMESTIC TERRORIST LAW

As the Wall Street Journal reported last Thursday, President-elect Joe Biden “has said he plans to make a priority of passing a law against domestic terrorism, and he has been urged to create a White House post overseeing the fight against ideologically inspired violent extremists and increasing funding to combat them.”

Biden made a point of identifying members of the Trump mob as “domestic terrorists” in remarks following last week’s attack, which he condemned as an “all-out assault on our institutions of democracy” led by the incumbent president.

Not long after the mob stormed Capitol Hill, some commentators began calling on Congress to begin work on a specific statute targeting “domestic terrorism”; as ProPublica explained last week, “while federal statutes provide a definition of domestic terrorism, there is not a specific law outlawing it.”

The call drew swift pushback from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who tweeted Saturday that “as the vice chair of the Oversight subcommittee who ran investigations into domestic terror laws, I respectfully disagree.”

“Our problems on Wednesday weren’t that there weren’t enough laws, resources, or intelligence,” said the New York Democrat. “We had them, and they were not used. It’s time to find out why.”

Diala Shamas, a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, echoed that point, telling The Intercept Sunday that “anyone familiar with the scope of surveillance and targeting of Black political dissents, or Muslim communities, knows that law enforcement has all the tools it needs to aggressively disrupt and hold accountable those who planned and participated in the storming of the Capitol.”

“Why they didn’t raises serious questions, but it was not because their hands were tied,” said Shamas. “We don’t need new terrorism designations.”

PATRIOT ACT

The notorious 2001 Patriot Act, passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks with Biden’s support, provides an expansive definition of “domestic terrorism” that—as the ACLU warned—was “broad enough to encompass the activities of several prominent activist campaigns and organizations,” including “Greenpeace, Operation Rescue, Vieques Island, and [World Trade Organization] protesters and the Environmental Liberation Front.”

The fears of civil liberties advocates were realized when, as predicted, law enforcement agencies proceeded to surveil and pursue animal rights advocates and environmentalists as well as Muslim Americans.

Warning Biden against enacting additional draconian measures in response to last week’s mob attack, New York magazine’s Sarah Jones wrote that the “state does not lack teeth” but “has too many at its disposal already.” What’s really missing in the way law enforcement and prosecutors handle protest—or violent uprisings—is lack of “discretion, and all sense of proportion” when they respond, Jones argued.

“Whatever powers Biden creates today can be used by the enemies of democracy tomorrow,” warned Jones. “Our civil liberties are simply too fragile, and the risk is much too great.”

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TOP COMMENTS • RESCUED DIARIES

QUOTATION

“They shouldnt teach their immigrants’ kids all about democracy unless they mean to let them have a little bit of it, it ony makes for trouble. Me and the United States is dissociating our alliance as of right now, until the United States can find time to read its own textbooks a little.”
              ~~James Jones, From Here to Eternity (1951)

TWEET OF THE DAY

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BLAST FROM THE PAST

At Daily Kos on this date in 2007—Science Friday: There is No Controversy: 

Ever since the terms “Climate Change” and “Global Warming” first made the news, the right has been engaged in an effort to ridicule the whole notion.  Man could have an effect on the atmosphere? Pshaw!  Okay, so Rush Limbaugh and the Fox airheads don’t actually say pshaw.  Instead, they’ve said that the idea of a human-caused climate change is “ridiculous,” and “malarkey” and a “farce.” (I’d give you links for those, but adding a link to Limbaugh and friends would give me a rash).  

Most of all, they’ve pushed the idea that our increasing thirst for flammable hydrocarbons might just cause an eensy change in the environment is controversial.  Sure, sure, we might be having a hot year — or two, or ten — but that doesn’t mean people had anything to do with it.  After all, we’re so small and the atmosphere is just so big. How could a little old us possibly have more effect than volcanoes, or cyclical changes, or the bad old carbon fairy, or whatever cause the right wants to put forward this week?  We changed the air?  Huh, that’s just controversial.  

They’ve depended on paid shills to generate pop-science FUD, and like the mercenaries of ignorance who constantly try to make it seem as if there’s some scientific debate around evolution, they’ve created smoke in the hopes of making people believe there’s a fire.  They’ve created fake organizations dedicated to spreading misinformation (current headline “Earth’s plants tell us they’re loving the CO2 increase!”)  They’ve even made a hero out of Michael Crichton (the one man whose ego might be larger than Bush and Rush combined) and his account of a Global Warming “conspiracy,” frequently citing his poorly-researched fictional tome as proof of the evil left wing environmentalist attempt to strip away your Hummer.

The trouble with this notion is that the folks who stole the “it’s only a theory” page from the whacko creationists are lying.  There is no controversy.  There’s been none in scientific journals, and no, scientists did not think we were going to freeze just a decade ago, no matter how many times the shills say they did.  With every passing day, the evidence becomes more compelling.