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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Are You An Extremist or Domestic Terrorist?

Are you a domestic terrorist? Are you an extremist who poses a threat to the security of the United States of America? By writing this blog post am I subjecting myself to scrutiny by the Department of Homeland Security? If you comment on this post are you subjecting yourself to being labeled a terrorist or extremist who would be on security watch lists?

Law enforcement officials throughout America are being warned about a rise in "extremist activity"; the DHS "has no specific information that domestic...terrorists are currently planning acts of violence" but they want law enforcement to on the watch for, and report any activity from extremists.

What is an extremist? Here is the definition from the DHS report

"...extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration."

Extremists, or domestic terrorists, could then also be a group that protests and marches against a particular church because of a particular issue--say gay rights activists (extremists? terrorists?) protesting the Mormon Church because of Prop 8. Or what about PETA members who throw blood on individuals wearing animal furs or skins? Extremists that need to be watched by DHS and law enforcement?

Do you ever reject federal authority? State authority? Local authority?

Oh, I omitted one word from some of the quotes above: "rightwing." The whole report deals with a speculation of an increase in "rightwing extremism" and "domestic rightwing terrorists." So if you are a leftwing extremist--say someone who has lived in a tree in Berkley for a couple of years, or someone who wears Pink and blocks Federal buildings or disrupts and creates disturbances on college campuses, or protest outside of churches yelling and screaming at members and distrupting services then you need not worry about the DHS; since your views are more closely aligned with that of the Administration and new heads of the DHS you are not considered extremist.

For all the protests and clamor and vitriol that has been spewed by the left over wire tapping, worries about the Feds knowing what books people check out of libraries, fear that the BushRoveCheney cabal was targeting them--all unfounded--I wonder if the press, the editorialists, the pundits, will object to this labelling and suspicion of millions of Americans merely because they hold ideas counter to the those now in power.

Just to make it easy on the DHS and any local law enforcement, or national, who happen across this blog: I am against illegal immigration and the use of our taxes to provide them free health care, education and other support; I am against late-term abortions and partial birth abortions, while I support abortion being legal I feel it should be a last resort and minors should have to have parental consent; I am very much for states' rights and feel the Federal government oversteps its bounds and the mandates of the Constitution and is doing more so each day of the Obama administration; I am also against so much power that has been accumulating in the state government having been usurped from the local government; I am against universal health care and feel if you have kids you should provide for them--if you can't do that then don't have them; I am for a strong United States military and feel we should remain in Iraq until Afghanistan is stabilized and Iran becomes a democratic nation.

There are many in this country who feel my opinions are extremist, others who feel they are moderate and still others who feel they are right on--so am I an extremist, a moderate or correct? I guess it depends on who is in the White House and who is running the Department of Homeland Security. Regardless of the label one chooses to place on me, just having these opinions, or others, should not raise suspicion that I may be planning specific acts of violence or terrorism; they simply mean I am American and think for myself--whether others like it or not.


Bob Schilling said...

If DHS wants to read my mail or listen to my calls, they're welcome to it. While they're at it, maybe they could dump the spam. The most likely outcome from such an effort would be that a Watcher would perish of boredom.

I believe that there is a legitimate concern about right-wing groups that might or might not resort to violence in the wake of recent conservative political reverses, just as there was about left-wing violence in the wake of Ronald Reagan's election. It's not a cause for panic, but a call to vigilance. I don't want to get blown up by anybody for any reason. I think we can all agree on that.

I think abortion is a sad event, whenever it happens. I'm not qualified to make that decision for a woman, and I want to government to stay out of it. I understand those who advocate for parental permission, but I also know people who work in the field. They argue that in too many cases a young woman faces ostracism or physical danger if she tells her parents -- especially her father -- that she's pregnant.

You and I disagree on health care. Too many people I know DID provide for themselves and their kids. Then the corporations that employed them discarded them like last week's pizza boxes, and with it went their retirement and health plans. That's not their fault, and if there are no jobs to be had they can't get another one. So I want the federal government to make sure that everyone has health care, and that it's of decent quality.

I'm against illegal immigration, too. I just think more immigration should be legal, and we should do what needs to be done to bring something like 12 million people into the TAXPAYING ranks of legal residents. As far as I can see, the most practical alternative is to establish a legalization process that allows people here to live here if they pay a fine and do something like community service. With that done, I'd impose crippling civil penalties on employers who hire illegals, and I'd set up an easy instant identification process at the border. Hopefully we'll find some reasonable middle ground on this -- it's in everyone's interest.

I don't ask everyone to agree with me, but I think the Mormon church egregiously violated the separation between church and state when they intervened in a California election. Beyond that, I think everyone -- including gay people -- should be allowed to live their lives as they choose, and I can't see how that would hurt me in any way. And if there are groups that want to protest the actions of the Mormon Church, how different is that from those who want to protest what they feel are excessive taxes? Same rules apply -- you can say what you want, but play nice. I think many PETA activists are misguided. I assume that none of them eat meat. I also assume that none of them have ever met a mink (nasty little creatures). I don't think we should hunt endangered species for skin and fur, but the rest seems a little silly. And throwing blood is assault, and should be punished as such.

Here's where I DO have concerns. I'm afraid of the thinking that led us to Guantanamo, and to any other place where Habeas Corpus is suspended. I'm afraid of the thinking that led us to believe that torture is helpful and justified (it's neither). I have deep concerns for a philosophy that suggests we should impose democracy at the point of a sword (though we can't just abandon Iraq and Afghanistan now that we're there).

In the end, I guess I fall short of being a true believer. I'm not sure I'm right about everything, or that conservatives are wrong on all counts. I'm not consistent -- I opposed the Iraq invasion but support what we're doing now. I generally oppose the death penalty -- but as a sailor I cheer summary justice for pirates.

I would advocate that we avoid labels. I know a number of hard-core street cops who are big fans of reentry programs for felons. I know some major military hawks who support gay rights. I know some environmental activists who favor the death penalty -- and even more who favor individual gun rights. Let's find common ground and move forward together wherever we can. Where we can't, let's disagree with respect and try wherever possible to let people live their own lives by employing the concept of "quiet enjoyment" as broadly as possible.

Dennis C Smith said...

So who is the suspicious extremist and who is not? Why not concern for the freaks on the far-left disappointed that Obama is not pulling out of Iraq and not closing Guantanamo right away?

By the way our Constitution, and the international treaties, does not guarantee habeas corpus to enemy combatants.

Your views on Lincoln's complete stomping on habeas corpus? In today's political environment he would not have been able to successfully, or perhaps even at all, wage the Civil War.

Thanks for your comments.

John Greet said...

Dennis: Just to be fair, the DHS Report you reference, and which you found at The Liberty, and which the author there, in turn, received “from a reasonably reliable source by e-mail” is just one of a series of such reports and assessments from the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (or US DHS/I&A). Although I cannot provide you a link to them (and would not if I could for reasons I will explain shortly), I can assure you that there exists many other such I&A reports and that one of them is entitled “*Leftwing* Extremists”.

Page 2 of the very document you link to states this truth quite clearly as well as who I&A’s intended audience is for this series of Assessments. At the bottom of page 2 can be found some very specific document sharing warnings and prohibitions. Warnings and prohibitions that the person who sent the document to the Liberty Papers, and then Liberty Papers itself, blatantly and, I believe, intentionally and erroneously violated.

This is unfortunate because, as we read on the bottom of page 2, release of such information “could adversely effect or jeopardize investigative activities”. While such may not be the *intent* of Liberty Papers, that really wont matter if such proves to be a result of their improper disclosure of this document.

While I appreciate and support the “Liberty Papers” stated goal “to be the place you go for liberal thought from a classic perspective” I think they would be wise and far more responsible to avoid distributing or re-distributing documents that are clearly marked “for official use only” (or FOUO) and “law enforcement sensitive” (or LES). There are many good reasons for our federal documents classification system and just one of them is to help avoid situations like these; where someone receives and posts them inappropriately.

Inappropriately disclosing documents like this neither clarifies the issue nor appropriately educates anyone. The opposite is, in fact, the case because the vast majority of readers cannot possibly consider the document in appropriate context.

The attempt to keep documents like these out of the general public’s hands can be attributed to a desire to avoid the very sorts of misunderstandings that are now clearly evidenced on your own site as well as sites like Liberty Papers. Considered in a vacuum, this report makes it appear that only right wing extremists are being assessed.

As I’ve mentioned, this is not the case at all.

Likewise there exists much discussion, here and elsewhere, concerning the terms “extremist” or “extremism”; terms this linked report does not define. The linked report divides “rightwing extremism” into two types but does not, in fact, define the term “extremism”.

Many government agencies attempt to define terms like “extremist” and “extremism” but since the FBI is the lead agency inside the U.S. for terrorism investigations, I prefer to use them as my source.

This, then, from FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Vol. 68, #9:

“For law enforcement purposes, extremism relates to groups and individuals engaged in criminal activity for the purpose of advancing or attempting to advance a political, religious, or social agenda”

The operative phrase, of course, being “engaged in criminal activity”.

Because I have the pleasure of being personally acquainted with you, Dennis, and believe you to be a law abiding citizen, I think you’re plenty safe from undue government scrutiny in this area.

Keep the faith, my friend!