Right Wing Domestic Terror

>> Monday, June 1, 2009

Andrew Sullivan had a brief post about the Christian terrorists who terrorize abortion providers.

Imagine an Islamist fanatic had assassinated a pro-Israel rabbi in a synagogue, and had harassed synagogues for years, including one arrest for bomb materials in his car. Imagine if one of his associates had tried to kill the rabbi before. Would there be any question that this was Islamist terror? So why is this not Christianist terror?

The answer is that it may very well be domestic terrorism by statute. An examination of the relevant statutory language presents a picture where the Anti-Abortion crowd could fall under Domestic Terror provisions and would then be subject to all of the legal consequences of that such as asset seizure.

Here is the relevant section of the patriot act that deals with domestic terror.

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.

If we examine the assassination of Dr. Tiller we see that subsection i is readily met. The intimidation of abortion providers by anti-abortion terrorists is well documented. To qualify the acts must be done to intimidate a civilian population. Abortion providers, their nurses and their patients certainly seem to qualify as a population. That the terrorists have tried to intimidate them through murder and arson is clear. Though somewhat dated this article gives an example of what has occurred,

While falling far short of bombings, the protest activities of antiabortion militants have become increasingly and unquestionably nasty. Patients visiting many of the roughly 800 clinics and 900 doctors' offices where abortions are performed have been harassed by pickets, who push them away from entrances for "sidewalk counseling" that often involves showing them photographs of nearly full-term fetuses. The recorded cries of infants have been sent into clinics from outside. Women seeking abortions have been videotaped, the license plates of cars delivering them have been noted and calls made to their homes. Tires of autos at the clinics have been deflated and car windows smashed. After a San Diego clinic was fire bombed last September, Director Carol Roberts got a note saying, "Death stalks at your job, murderous bitch." Said she: "Every time the phone rings, I go into sheer panic." Some protesters have berated pregnant women within the clinics while pretending to be patients who have changed their minds about an abortion.

Subsections ii and iii appear to be met. However there is an argument to be made that the terrorists at work here are not actually acting with the intent to change the actual government policy but to make it a de facto impossibility to carry out the proscribed policy by eliminating those willing to provide the service. The assassination of Dr. Tiller appears to go a long way toward that goal as providers of his service are rare. from ann friedman,

I am also worried about what Tiller's murder means for women in Kansas and elsewhere in the country who need the services that he provided. The simple fact is there are almost no doctors who provide late-term abortions, especially in rural parts of the country. I was in Nebraska several years ago to interview Dr. Leroy Carhart (whose challenges to abortion-restricting laws went all the way to the Supreme Court), and Carhart and Tiller were the only two late-term providers in their region. If one wanted to go on vacation or got sick, the other had to fill in. There was no one else.(emphasis added)

Taking a plain reading of subsection three it appears to have the same issue as with subsection ii, are the actions such as arson or assassination meant to alter government policy or to quell availability without regard to the actual legal policy of the US government? Statements like those of Erick Rudolf the bomber of the 1996 US Olympics indicate otherwise,

Rudolph also shed light on his intentions regarding the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. He called it an opportunity to shame the United States for its legalization of abortion. He said his goal was to knock out Atlanta's power grid and shut down the Olympics.

DHS already appears to agree with the assessment that these anti-abortion groups are domestic terror groups as they are listed as such in the now notorious DHS report on right wing domestic terrorism.

The FBI’s third domestic terror group targets “special interest” issues, which can be left or right-wing in affiliation - such as animal rights, environmental protection or abortion. While the FBI does not consider these groups to pose a terrorist threat, last week’s guilty plea by Eric Rudolph proved that even “special interest” groups are capable of conducting attacks beyond their “traditional” targets.

The belief that these groups are not a terrorist threat seems to be belied by actual events. The assassination of tiller, the firebombing of clinics meet the guidelines for terrorism and yet there seems to be a reluctance to treat them as such. This is a reluctance noted in the DHS report which explains that only left wing groups have been identified as threats in crucial budgeting plans.

DHS’ lack of certainty over how to categorize the risk posed by domestic terrorist groups is further revealed in its strategic planning. According to a recent news article, DHS distributed a January 2005 budgetary planning document entitled “Integrated Planning Guidance, Fiscal Years 2005-2011,” which identified certain domestic terror groups as posing potential threats to the homeland. Given the FBI’s designation of right-wing groups as “the most serious domestic threat,” it is surprising that, according to the article, DHS’ planning document did not name right-wing domestic terrorists or terrorist groups as a potential threat. However, the document reportedly does list left-wing domestic groups, “such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF),” as terrorist threats. A subsequent interview with DHS officials revealed that the document included eco-terrorists because they “will continue to focus their attacks on property damage in an effort to change policy.” The document notes that although “publicly ALF and ELF promote nonviolence toward human life . . . some members may escalate their attacks.”

The differences between the ALF and Extreme Anti-abortion groups on the right seems to center on the issue. The property damage and loss of life associated with the groups on the right seems to me distinguishing the groups as a matter of threat assessment strange. The question now becomes whether the government is going to use the terror prevention tools it has to target these groups. They are terrorists as defined by statute and they pose an acknowledged risk.

The odds of full anti-terror measures being taken against these groups seems unlikely. The right could not accept the DHS report which merely identifies these groups as potential threats so their reaction to them actually being treated the same as al-queda would give them aneurysms or heart attacks. If you though asking for investigation of torture set off a hissy fit wait till good christians doing gods work are treated like actual terrorists. imagine one being labeled an enemy combatant and sent to gitmo or bargahm and subsequently waterboarded (ya i know we dont do that anymore)cause there arent prisons safe enough to hold them here in the US. That should get them to admit all their anti-abortion bombing plans and associates They could also have their assets seized by the government and sold to generate revenue.

That we dont address domestic terrorists in nearly the same way we address international terrorists should tell us something. Both of them kill and destroy property. Both are identified as posing a threat and yet domestic terrorists are labeled as criminals, charged in courts, convicted, then held in prisons in america. Maybe we should take a page from dealing with domestic terrorists in our attempts to deal with international terrorists groups.


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