from the let's-not dept
Many of us watched in horror as Trump supporters — encouraged by the outgoing President’s insinuation that a “stolen” election could be overturned if VP Mike Pence was prevented from certifying election results — raided the Capitol building in Washington, DC. What may have started as simple MAGA stupidity ended with five people dead and two improvised explosive devices recovered. Welcome to Leroy Jenkinsville, USA.
Invading federal buildings is a serious federal offense. That’s why Trump sent federal officers to Portland — officers that spent a lot of time shooting and pepper spraying journalists and legal observers. There was a lot of irony contained in the Capitol invasion by Trump supporters — ones who feel the government can do no wrong when their boy is in charge but cannot be trusted the moment the guy up top is replaced.
But the most painful irony still lies ahead. An executive order from Trump signed in June was meant to target “anarchists and left wing extremists” who tore down monuments to Confederate “heroes” and otherwise menaced federal property. Now, it looks like the latest citizens to be hit with sentence enhancements will be the same people who cheered on this open targeting of people whose views were diametrically opposed to Trump’s. “Fullest extent of the law” — as ordered in the Presidential edict — means pursuing maximum sentences for attacking federal property.
As horrifying as all of that was, the worst may lie ahead. The incoming president is threatening to turn January 6th into the next 9/11. (h/t Jameel Jaffer)
“Don’t dare call them protesters,” Mr. Biden said in remarks from Wilmington, Del. “They were a riotous mob. Insurrectionists. Domestic terrorists. It’s that basic. It’s that simple.”
He’s not wrong. Some of the acts — especially the use of IEDs — are the very definition of “domestic terrorism.” The problem is what Biden wants to do about it.
Mr. Biden has said he plans to make a priority of passing a law against domestic terrorism, and he has been urged to create a White House post overseeing the fight against ideologically inspired violent extremists and increasing funding to combat them.
This may seem reasonable. And some renewed focus on the domestic side of terrorism might be warranted, considering how it’s been back-burnered by law enforcement for, um, personal reasons. It’s well documented that law enforcement agencies in the US — including the FBI — have ignored domestic extremists in favor of targeting people with darker skin and non-Christian faiths. Ignoring the domestic threat means not having to examine people law enforcement agencies have on their payrolls, far too many of whom have been caught espousing bigoted views in private.
But no matter how good it might feel to finally force law enforcement to confront people whose cognitive dissonance allows them to post ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ memes alongside their Blue Lives Matter content, there’s absolutely no reason anyone should welcome another expansion of government power under the guise of fighting terrorism.
The 9/11 attacks vastly expanded the government’s reach and grasp. And it has resulted in a lot of domestic surveillance — much of which uses the pretense of being “foreign-facing” to excuse its intrusion into the lives of Americans. For years, the NSA was able to harvest phone metadata in bulk, almost all of which was generated by domestic communications. Backdoor searches of NSA collections allow the FBI and others to obtain domestic communications without a warrant. And the FBI’s war on foreign terrorism has done little more than allow the agency to radicalize people right into lengthy prison sentences.
Add to that biometric collections at airports, no-fly lists that are almost impossible to challenge, and the court-supported belief that the rights of American citizens are null and void anywhere within 100 miles of a border, coast, or international airport, and you have dozens of reason why no one should celebrate a new, entirely-domestic, War on Terror.
What happened earlier this month was disturbing. And domestic terrorism is a threat that should be addressed. But emotional lawmaking in the wake of an attack has never worked out well for Americans, even if many would applaud the punishment of people they don’t like. America’s law enforcement already has the tools, funding, and power to tackle domestic terrorism. They just need to start doing it. What they don’t need is a whole new set of powers. And what Americans really don’t need is less freedom and liberty, no matter what threat we’re facing.