>We’re All Terrorists

>Alarming is the only way to describe the story of Briana Waters in today’s Salon. Waters is a Berkeley, CA mother and violin teacher who made a documentary on some environmental activists a few years ago. Now she’s a convicted of terrorist, awaiting sentencing for at the most holding a walkie-talkie, and at the least for associating with her documentary subjects.

It’s all very bizarre, and doesn’t look entirely legit, but it seems the government needed to broaden its definition of “terrorism” so the American public could feel safe to go shopping:

In the wake of 9/11, federal prosecutors had some new legal tools at their disposal. Historically, the crime of terrorism has required civilian deaths. In fact, the State Department defined terrorism as “premeditated politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatants.” But the USA Patriot Act created a new category of domestic terrorism, which is defined as an offense “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government” or “to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.” Under this broad definition, eco-saboteurs become terrorists if their crime seeks to change government policy or action.

Really? Seeking to change government policy is the same as loading a rental truck with explosives and taking down a Federal building full of people?

I guess that makes me a terrorist. I want to change government policy, and when the President and Vice President cavalierly say “so what” to the will of the people, one has to shout a little louder. I don’t advocate violence, but I can see how this kind of loose definition of “terrorism” can be used as a weapon to intimidate non-violent groups. Indeed:

Nonviolent protesters have already felt the heat. Documents obtained in 2005 by the ACLU reveal that the FBI has been surveying animal rights and environmental groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Greenpeace, sending undercover agents to activist conferences and cultivating inside informants. Some of the documents suggest that the bureau was also attempting to link those groups with the ELF and ALF. The National Lawyers Guild reports that it receives calls regularly from environmental and animal-rights activists all over the country who had been contacted by the FBI after attending political events. “It has a chilling effect on free speech,” says Guild director Boghosian, “and that’s where the real damage to the Constitution is happening.”

Groups that destroy property to make their statement are criminals, don’t get me wrong. But prosecute them for their crimes, not their ideas.

We’re way too quick to scream “terrorists!” these days. Anyone remember when a bunch of luxury homes in Maryland were burned down? I do:

More than 100 firefighters, along with agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, swarmed the Hightowers’ burning paradise. Arson investigators speculated that the culprits were radical environmentalists concerned that the housing development would destroy valuable wetlands.

Yes, environmentalists are always the first ones with the book of matches and canister of gasoline on hand. Or maybe not:

Initially, investigators thought environmentalists who had opposed construction of the subdivision, fearing it would disrupt the ecology of a nearby bog, were behind the fires. Instead, when Mr. Speed was arrested and the identities of the other suspects began to spill out, an entirely different and much more puzzling scenario emerged.

Investigators said two of the suspects made racial comments during their interrogations, leading the authorities to suspect that this might be, in part, a hate crime – many of the families moving into the subdivision are black, and all the suspects are white. But searches have thus far turned up no evidence of racist or white supremacist literature. Revenge is a second possible motive.

Prosecutors said the suspects referred to the incident as Operation Payback, although not all of those accused of taking part have a clear complaint against Hunters Brooke.

Prosecutors said Mr. Speed was upset that his bosses had not been sufficiently sympathetic when his infant son died in April. Mr. Parady was said to be angry that he had been turned down for a job with the company building the subdivision.

So, guess what crime these malcontents were convicted of committing? Was it terrorism? There appears to be a racial component to their motive, after all.

Nope. Guess again!

It was arson. Not terror. Arson.

Funny how that works.

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