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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/8/19

The Slippery Slope Of "Domestic Terrorism"

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In the wake of back-to-back mass murder in the United States, the national trauma that ensued has spilled a set of "solutions" all reactions to what has become so commonplace in the country today. From the low hanging, safe fruits of background checks prior to purchasing a firearm, to banning over capacity magazines and wishful thinking about assault weapons ban, politicians, including the President of the United States, are twisting themselves into self-created Gordian Knots. Fact is the 2000 lb. elephant in the room is the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its opposition to just about ANYTHING sensible when it comes to legislating about guns.

So politicians from both the Democratic and Republican Parties the two versions of the Corporate Party have sought to blame mental illness for these all too common acts of mass murder overwhelmingly committed by white young men. The POTUS has even lurched to comical extreme blaming video games as one of the major factors for these killings. The narrative and its many hydra-headed versions gives the issue of gun control a wide berth too scared to even mention it lest the NRA bogeyman gets his knickers crossed.

Now there's a new and dangerous narrative egged on by the mainstream media that these killers and those in waiting should be designated "domestic terrorists" and the crime committed must be called an act of "domestic terror." According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): Section 802 of the USA PATRIOT Act (Pub. L. No. 107-52) expanded the definition of terrorism to cover ""domestic,"" as opposed to international, terrorism. A person engages in domestic terrorism if they do an act "dangerous to human life" that is a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the United States, if the act appears to be intended to: (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.

Additionally, the acts have to occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States and if they do not, may be regarded as international terrorism. Section 802 does not create a new crime of domestic terrorism. However, it does expand the type of conduct that the government can investigate when it is investigating "terrorism." The USA PATRIOT Act expanded governmental powers to investigate terrorism, and some of these powers are applicable to domestic terrorism.

The inherent danger in formalizing and codifying the created and manufactured designation of " domestic terrorism" and the potential for the U.S. Congress to greatly expand and enhance this from its already wide interpretation is that it could be used to justify just about anything. The Federal Government in effect can use any expanded powers to arrest and detain and political dissenter on "suspicion of planning acts of domestic terrorism."

In fact, the present definition of domestic terrorism is broad enough to encompass the activities of several prominent political and social activist campaigns and organizations. For example, Greenpeace, Operation Rescue, Vieques Island and WTO protesters, and the Environmental Liberation Front have all recently engaged in activities that could subject them to being investigated as engaging in domestic terrorism.

Consider this: Seizure of assets - Sec. 806: Section 806 of the Act could result in the civil seizure of their assets without a prior hearing, and without them ever being convicted of a crime. It is by far the most significant change of which political organizations need to be aware. Section 806 amended the civil asset forfeiture statute to authorize the government to seize and forfeit: all assets, foreign or domestic (i) of any individual, entity, or organization engaged in planning or perpetrating any act of domestic or international terrorism against the United States, or their property, and all assets, foreign or domestic, affording any person a source of influence over any such entity or organization or (ii) acquired or maintained by any person with the intent and for the purpose of supporting, planning, conducting, or concealing an act of domestic or international terrorism against the United States, citizens or residents of the United States or their property or (iii) derived from, involved in, or used or intended to be used to commit any act of domestic or international terrorism against the United States, citizens or residents of the United States, or their property.

The slippery slope of domestic terrorism also targets possible supporters of the protesters/organizations and could include student organizations that sponsored participation in the demonstrations, activist organizations like Jesse Jackson's the Rainbow/Push Coalition, the Rev. Sharpton's National Action Network, and, most ominously, religious or community organizations that provide housing or food to protesters.

Also consider this: The civil asset forfeiture power of the United States government is overwhelming and punitive. The federal government can seize and/or freeze the assets on the mere assertion that there is probable cause to believe that the assets are or were involved in domestic terrorism. The assets are seized before an individual is given a hearing, and often without notice. In order to permanently forfeit the assets, the government must go before a court, but at a civil hearing where the government is only required to prove that the assets are or were involved in terrorism by a preponderance of the [its] evidence. Because it is a civil proceeding, a person is not entitled to be represented by an attorney at public expense if they cannot afford to pay one.

Finally, I fully support criminal prosecution for anyone who breaks the law. I also believe that the mass murderers' actions were criminal, racist and triggered by white supremacist ideologies. In short, they are criminals who committed mass murder. Domestic terrorism as set out in the Patriot Act is way too broad and too open to legal interpretation that just leads to "making it up as we go along." To safeguard the rights of Americans if we want to retool and strengthen domestic terrorism law we should also narrow its scope, meaning and legal frameworks so that it is not used as a tool to arrest and detain political enemies, to illegally seize assets of social and political pressure organizations and to further chip away at Americans' civil and human rights.

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MICHAEL DERK ROBERTS Small Business Consultant, Editor, and Social Media & Communications Expert, New York Over the past 20 years I've been a top SMALL BUSINESS CONSULTANT and POLITICAL CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST in Brooklyn, New York, running (more...)

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