You Might Be a Terrorist, Too

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Cato’s David Rittgers rounds up cases of terrorist “fusion centers” erring on the side of labeling, well, pretty much everyone, a potential terrorist.

The North Texas Fusion System labeled Muslim lobbyists as a potential threat; a DHS analyst in Wisconsin thought both pro- and anti-abortion activists were worrisome; a Pennsylvania homeland security contractor watched environmental activists, Tea Party groups, and a Second Amendment rally; the Maryland State Police put anti-death penalty and anti-war activists in a federal terrorism database; a fusion center in Missouri thought that all third-party voters and Ron Paul supporters were a threat; and the Department of Homeland Security described half of the American political spectrum as “right wing extremists.”

The ACLU fusion center report and update lay out some good background on these issues, and the Spyfiles report describes how monitoring lawful dissent has become routine for police departments around the nation.

I believe this is the part where right wingers justify including anti-war and environmental groups on these lists, and left wingers justify including Tea Partiers, anti-abortion activists, and Second Amendment advocates.

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43 Responses to “You Might Be a Terrorist, Too”

  1. #1 |  Nate | 

    Lets play the “…you might be a terrorist.” game!

    If you’ve ever been to a political rally
    …you might be a terrorist.

    If you tell people not to talk to you before you’ve had your coffee
    …you might be a terrorist.

    If you have an opinion
    …you might be a terrorist.

    If you a paid to break down the front door of American citizens and hold their family at gunpoint, kill the family dog, plant contraband, then arrest and sue your victims
    …you are
    …an upstanding patriot and we are in awe of your glorious service.

  2. #2 |  Aresen | 

    Face it. If you aren’t on somebody’s “terrorist list”, you just aren’t worth bothering about.

    I plan to sign up for as many “terrorist watch lists” as I can.

  3. #3 |  Aresen | 

    Nate | February 2nd, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Lets play the “…you might be a terrorist.” game

    You might be a terrorist if
    – you’ve written a letter to the editor.
    – run in the Boston Marathon. (I kinda agree on this one. Goddam fitness fanatics.)
    – visited a country where English is not the dominant language.
    – speak another language.

  4. #4 |  Bob | 

    And all the while… the real terrorists are busy increasing the national debt.

  5. #5 |  Chuchundra | 

    Certain elements of the anti-abortion movement can and should be considered terrorist groups. They engage in death threats, violent intimidation, bombing of clinics and targeted murder.

    I’m not sure what else you’d like to call them.

  6. #6 |  Nick | 

    I found the Missouri document to be pretty funny… While I think the document is pretty crazy in that it takes many small groups and their conspiracy theories too seriously, and what they might do, what I didn’t see was any reference to Ron Paul or “Third Party Voters”… did I miss something?

  7. #7 |  LibertarianBlue | 

    I think all Libertarians should be proud to be viewed as terrorists by both blue statists and red statists. Awhile back there was a bumpersticker that said “I made the DHS list”

    Liberal Terrorist List

    – Ron Paul supporters
    – 2nd Amendment advocates
    – End the Fed advocates
    – Religious Right
    – Libertarians
    – Paleoconservatives
    – Neoconservatives
    – Conservatives

    Neoconservative Terrorist List

    – Muslims
    – Arabs
    – Critics of our current foreign policy
    – Critics of Israel
    – Libertarians
    – Liberals
    – Gays and Gay Rights activists

    Paleoconservative Terrorist List

    – Hispanics
    – Atheists
    – Agnostics
    – Arabs
    – Muslims
    – Libertarians
    – Liberals
    – Neoconservatives
    – Supporters of Israel
    – Critics of Protectionism
    – Pro-Church and State Advocates
    – Gays and Gay Rights activists

  8. #8 |  Mattocracy | 

    I wonder how many right wingers see the irony that they are being labeled terrorists after advocating hardline policies that deprive people of their rights when accused of terrorism? That Gitmo place might get a lot whiter in complexion pretty soon.

    And just to add insult to injury, I bet the guards will probably stash the anti-war and pro-war people together in the same holding cells.

    As soon as you unleash the government on your enemies, it come for you too.

  9. #9 |  RomanCandle | 

    The word “terrorism” is becoming meaningless. When everyone is a terrorist, no one is, and the word has no meaning. Orwell famously remarked that a similar thing happened to the word “fascist”.

  10. #10 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    All those protesters in Cairo? Terrorists.

  11. #11 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Thanks, Nate. I read that list in Jeff Foxworthy’s voice. And then Carlos Mencia’s voice came in and stole the idea.

  12. #12 |  Cyto | 

    I didn’t read the “right wing terrorist” report back in 2009 when it came out. Boy, did I miss out.

    “(U//FOUO) Growth of these groups subsided in reaction to increased
    government scrutiny as a result of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and
    disrupted plots, improvements in the economy, and the continued U.S. standing
    as the preeminent world power.”

    Our wonderful federal government was able to stamp out right wing extremism by increasing scrutiny after 1995. Nice analysis. Seems that at the time those in power thought that it was on the rise after 1995 – particularly the “vast right wing conspiracy” that tried to oust the president.

  13. #13 |  Cyto | 

    #10 | Boyd Durkin |

    You jest, but I’m somewhat alarmed at the number of people (left and right) that are not on the side of the protesters in Egypt. A lot of the right wing seems motivated by general anti-Obama sentiment, but both left and right also seem genuinely worried about conflict with Israel if the Egyptian government ceases to be a dictatorship that can be bought off. I suppose there is something to that, but the entire point of the neocon Iraq strategy was to incite this exact movement across the middle east. You’d think that at least the neocons would be lock-step behind the protesters.

  14. #14 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    ‘The word “terrorism” is becoming meaningless. ‘

    You can only exploit a term for “shock value” so many times
    before desensitization kicks in. The term used to excite the amygdala of so many Americans. Fear. Panic. End of Days.
    News corporations loved it. Ratings went through
    the roof. It wasn’t just a story. It was an Industry.

    Now the “T word” elicits about as much panic as “static cling.”
    File under “overkill” in the Odyssey Files.

  15. #15 |  Steamed McQueen | 

    @#11 Boyd Durkin:

    That there is funny, I don’t care who you are!

  16. #16 |  Mattocracy | 

    I can see The Onion Article now…”DHS lists all non DHS employees as potential terrorist threats. America a haven for rightwing liberal extremists!”

  17. #17 |  Dante | 

    Ooooh! Oooh! I want to play the “…you might be a terrorist.” game!

    If you have ever believed that “All men were created equal”, you might be a terrorist.

    If you think the War on Drugs is a waste of time, money and human lives, you might be a terrorist.

    If you think Brittany Spears is a good singer, you …. heck, I turn down the sound and just watch so I better not go there.

    And finally,
    If you’ve EVER written a letter to your elected representatives in which you disagree with ANYTHING they said or did, you might be a terrorist.

  18. #18 |  Steve Verdon | 

    And its us libertarians (broadly defined) that are the whack jobs?

    We are a country of pussies, wimps, and cowards who think that putting everyone on a watch list and granting the police ever increasing powers of violence and coercion is both tough and will help ensure freedom.

    There are your real nutters….the Republicans and Democrats.

  19. #19 |  Deoxy | 

    Actually, if I didn’t distrust the government so amazingly much, this is exactly what I would want them to be doing. Pro-life and pro-choice groups are both “extremist” and may well attract people who are willing to do extreme, violent things, for example.

    If it was just collecting information about these groups to watch for those violent, law-breaking members, and it was done to all “extreme” groups regardless of politics, I would applaud it (the “right to privacy” being one of the “penumbras” that would be better protected, in the vast majority of cases, by strong property rights instead, not to mention that it was made up from whole cloth by SCOTUS).

    Of courses, I’m not sure I can even imagine our government behaving so even-handedly, so it’s pretty creepy, really.

    #13 – what really worries the right is not that Egypt might become a democracy*, but that it will become a “democracy” like Gaza – democracy in appearance only, ruled in reality by extreme Islamic fundamentalists.

    * Actually, whether a country is a democracy or not really isn’t that important – what matters is that they guarantee the rights of the citizens and limit the power of government. Representative democracy has managed to do that better and longer than any other system we’ve yet tried, but I believe that, in significant part, that’s because it was relatively new, and statist-leaning groups didn’t yet know how to bend it to their will (not to mention that who the actual people participating are matters a great deal, as well). As such groups figure out how to beat the system, it may well become no better at the creating and sustaining limited government than any other system. Yeah, I’m running a bit low on optimism, here, why do you ask?

  20. #20 |  Aaron | 

    I believe this is the part where right wingers justify including anti-war and environmental groups on these lists, and left wingers justify including Tea Partiers, anti-abortion activists, and Second Amendment advocates.

    OK, I’ll bite. There actually are regular attacks on abortion clinics, from arson that destroys equipment and buildings to the assassination of George Tiller. These seem to me to fit a neutral definition of terrorism in that they’re the use of violence to for political ends. There have similarly been attacks by environmental groups (though recently it seems to be more animal welfare / anti-animal testing).

    Now, obviously, the fact that these tactics are used by some shouldn’t place others on these nebulous watchlists merely for sharing goals, without particularized suspicion.

  21. #21 |  Irving Washington | 

    I’m right now dealing with a civil case in which one of the litigants has made threats of violence against my client and me. The guy’s a whack job, and we’re taking the threats seriously, reporting them to every law enforcement agency we think could possibly have jurisdiction. The civil system doesn’t have good ways to deal with the situation; so we’re reliant on law enforcement to decide when the threats have gone far enough to arrest the dude.

    Anyway, that’s all a long way to set up this idea. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the legitimate need of government to keep tabs on certain people. Why not just shine a bright light on it? If you’re in a group that gets monitored, what would happen if there were publicly available information disclosing that you’re being monitored? You’d stand up and yell, “Why? What the hell did we do?” Then the government either has a good explanation or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then the rest of us get to shout down the government and stand up for fellow citizens and get the democratic process in gear to take corrective action. I think we all suspect that the real explanations for most of these investigations is bigotry or paranoia or something illegitimate.

    But on the other hand, some of these have a basis, I suspect, and why do we keep that basis secret? If they’re monitoring a student group because one of the members alerted the FBI to contacts with Anwar al-Awlaki, then I want to know that, and I suspect the university wants to know that, and if I’m the local newspaper, I damn well want to know that.

    Half-baked idea, maybe. Thoughts?

  22. #22 |  BamBam | 

    @21, carry pepper spray and a pistol with an extra mag in your pocket.

  23. #23 |  Ed Kline | 

    We’d be better off with the occasional terrorist attack than dealing with all of the bullshit associated with preventing one.

  24. #24 |  LOLcat | 

    Frontline did an excellent piece on these fusion centers last week called: Are we safer?

  25. #25 |  J | 

    Submitted without comment:

    Last week’s acquittal of Alejandro Perez in the murder of another inmate at the Limon Correctional Facility provides fresh ammo for critics of Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney Carol Chambers, whose determination to seek the death penalty for a prison gang homicide has resulted in a six-year debacle of prosecutorial missteps and defeats. It’s tough enough to get a death-penalty verdict in Colorado. It’s even tougher when the case is so troubled you can’t get a conviction to stick.
    [more at link]

  26. #26 |  J.S. | 

    OT (well if you laugh you might be a terrorist!):

  27. #27 |  Anthony | 

    I watched the Frontline. Scary how much technology and terms the LEOs uses are military. Its also scary how they speak of “the system” the same way religious people speak of their god.

  28. #28 |  Mykeru | 

    One of the signature features of terrorists is, of course, that they are bipedal, bilaterally symmetrical and have opposable thumbs.

  29. #29 |  Gordon | 

    @Mykeru (#28) – OMG!! They’re on to me!!

  30. #30 |  V | 

    @ Anthony:

    It’s a logical progression considering how many of these people come from the military.

  31. #31 |  Mark Matis | 

    For Chuchundra:
    “Among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

    What part of that do YOU not understand?

  32. #32 |  Pete | 

    I think it’s pretty clear that a better fiscal policy would be to have think tanks identifying the people who aren’t terrorists. Clearly that is the smaller list.

  33. #33 |  j | 

    “described half of the American political spectrum as “right wing extremists.””

    No. It doesn’t. It acknowledges that some “law-abiding” persons share some views with “right wing extremists” but does not label those persons as “extremists” merely for sharing views.

  34. #34 |  random guy | 


    “Quick cut off your hand and foot, that’ll prove we’re not crazy terrrerists”

  35. #35 |  Smoke | 

    #5 Chuchundra: “Certain elements of the anti-abortion movement can and should be considered terrorist groups. They engage in death threats, violent intimidation, bombing of clinics and targeted murder.”

    Right…and all the while abortionists are murdering innocent babies. That goes beyond terrorism right into infanticide. Care to call that something else???

  36. #36 |  Subject of Interest | 

    Fusion Center lists will be extremely helpful to the Chinese after they seize the collateral on their failed loans to the US, which is US soil itself, and every object and person that rests upon it. Prepare to be re-constructed.

  37. #37 |  mirrors | 

    #19 – you could as well say – “but that it will become a “democracy” like Israel – democracy in appearance only, ruled in reality by extreme Jewish fundamentalists.”

  38. #38 |  Tweets that mention You Might Be a Terrorist, Too | The Agitator -- | 

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lew Rockwell, jack traver and Cop Block, jt. jt said: You Might Be a Terrorist, Too | The Agitator: You jest, but I'm somewhat alarmed at the number of people (left a… […]

  39. #39 |  Contemplationist | 

    This is why the “War on Terror” is a phony project. Call it Defense against the global jihad or some other crap.

  40. #40 |  roobah | 

    @Irving Washington’s comments… Folks, it seems we have a brown-shirt amongst ourselves here.

  41. #41 |  roobah | 

    @Nick. I will guess that some of the reason’s Ron Paul supporters made the list is because of their violent propensity to throw snowballs at Sean Hannity, disbelieve every word that comes from Glenn Beck’s mouth, and most of them learned how to spray paint the word R3VOLUTION on a sign, go hold it for all to see ons a street corner during extremel weather conditions for hours at a stretch several times a week, and think that is okay. Oh, and most of them homeschool their kids. What could possibly be worse than to do these things?

  42. #42 |  albatross | 

    The problem with watchlists of all kinds is that you can’t really think sensibly about them without thinking about probabilities, and that’s math, which turns off the brains of far too many people in our society. (Even worse, many of our elected leaders and high-level administrative people and lawyers, and nearly all journalists, are math-phobic.)

  43. #43 |  albatross | 

    The fusion centers are part of a massive infrastructure for domestic spying that’s been built since 9/11, and that’s been documented pretty well in the Washington Post’s Top Secret America series. Over the years, we’ve built up a nice little turnkey police state. We’ll probably keep growing it, since there are both jobs and institutional power depending on that.

    One day, something bad will happen. Several somethings. Domestic terrorist attacks. Unrest in the streets. A stolen election. Financial crisis. Debt crisis. Perhaps even a couple big natural disasters.

    And then, we’ll find out what happens when someone turns that key, when those mechanisms are turned on the American people in a big way. We’ll find out how well our military-industrial complex has done at developing high-tech ways to hold down an angry, resentful population, to break up insurgencies with a few well-placed drone-fired missiles, death squads[1], and a few prisoners disappeared and tortured[2] to get information on the rest. People on the Facebook friends list of activists, or who often email or talk to them on the phone, will have this odd tendency to disappear.

    As best I can tell, the majority of American adults will have earned what they get, when that happens. Arbitrary murder, kidnapping, and torture were all fine when they were happening to someone else far away. It would have taken minutes and minutes of concentrated thought and reflection to realize that these same things might one day be done to them.

    [1] Sorry, I mean special-operations troops removing high-value targets.

    [2] Oops, I mean “subjected to extrajudicial detainment and enhanced interrogation.”