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On the DoD's "Correcting" Its Labeling of Protest as "Low-Level Terrorism"

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Headlined to H2 6/21/09

In response to the ACLU’s June 10, 2009 letter demanding that the Department of Defense (DoD) pull a question from its DoD training exam that equated protest with “low-level terrorism,” which I wrote about at Open Salon on June 14 (“DoD Training Manual: Protests are ‘Low-Level Terrorism’”) – and which was reposted and written about on scores of websites and blogs, both left and right - the DoD has removed the question from the exam.

This is good news. The problem, however, goes deeper than this one question. But before I go into that, let’s look at the DoD’s actions and explanation:

As reported by Fox News:

“The Pentagon has removed a controversial question from its anti-terrorism training exam that labeled ‘protests’ a form of ‘low-level terrorism,’ calling the question ‘poorly worded.’

“A Pentagon spokesman said the question failed to make clear the difference between illegal violent demonstrations and constitutionally protected peaceful protests.

“Civil libertarians and activist groups, interviewed by for a story that appeared on Wednesday [June 17], had objected strongly to the exam question, which a Department of Defense employee had printed and given to the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The question asked:

“’Which of the following is an example of low-level terrorism?’

“— Attacking the Pentagon

“— IEDs

“— Hate crimes against racial groups

“— Protests

“The correct answer, according to the exam, was ‘Protests.’

“’They should have made it clearer there’s a clear difference between illegal violent demonstrations and peaceful, constitutionally protected protests,’ Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Les Melnyk said on Thursday.

“Asked when a protest becomes an ‘illegal, violent demonstration,’ Melnyk said, ‘I’m not a lawyer. I couldn’t get into the specifics of when you cross the line.’

“’If you’re doing physical damage to people or property, that could fall into that,’ he said.”

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Cal Poly Pomona Sociology Professor. Author of "Globalization and the Demolition of Society," co-editor/author (with Peter Phillips) of "Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney." National Steering Committee Member of the World Can't (more...)
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