Coalition for Constitutional Liberties
Weekly Update for 11/12/99
Volume 2, Number 40
Brought to you by the Center for Technology Policy of the Free Congress Foundation
Lisa S. Dean, Vice President for Technology Policy

Law Enforcement's Confusion Over Who is a Terrorist ~

Endangered Liberties Commentary
FCF Vice President for Technology Policy Lisa Dean

       Many of the Constitutional atrocities we see committed by our government are being done in the name of protecting national security. With Y2K as an excuse, or perhaps a reason, federal law enforcement is seeing to it that Americans enter the next century with fewer Constitutional rights than in any time at the nation's history, all in the name of saving us from terrorists and criminals.

       The risk of terrorism has caused alarm among intelligence and federal law enforcement authorities. In the wake of Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center bombings, the cause for alarm is not without cause. However, the mentality within federal law enforcement agencies about who the criminals and terrorists are, is at best, confused. The perspective that the FBI is operating under currently is to treat those who merely criticize the government the same as actual terrorists.

       There is weighty evidence in this area to support that position. First, both the political Right and the Left, such as Amnesty International and the Rutherford Institute admit to having been targeted by federal law enforcement for their positions on issues, which happen to fall opposite that of the Administration. This illustrates that the lines between "terrorism" and "criticism" are blurred and that becomes very dangerous. Jim Dempsey, Senior Staff Counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology and a guest on this program, is co-author of the book, Terrorism and the Constitution: Sacrificing Civil Liberties in the Name of National Security. Dempsey has made the case that federal law enforcement actually views organizations on the political Right as greater threats than those on the Left precisely because of their criticism of the Administration.

       And it's that statement which leads me to the second point - Project Megiddo, a topic discussed frequently on this program as of late. This latest report issued by the FBI blurs the lines between the legitimate and the illegitimate, those who criticize and those who terrorize. The report states that the Right wing movement, particularly the religious branch, as they call them, believes in the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world. So what? Well, it just so happens that many of the cults that the FBI is targeting for potential acts of violence also believe in the end times and the Second Coming so the FBI takes that opportunity to confuse the Right-wing movement, as they call it, or the Religious Right, with those religious cults whom they consider dangerous.

       Also, according to the report, non-religious groups, such as the Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and militias are also considered dangerous because they have a history of violence in America. But, the report continues to label these groups "Right wing" and of course, confuse them with organizations such as Gun Owners of America and the John Birch Society, whom they accuse of fueling the paranoia of the other groups. What the FBI has done is confuse those groups who have committed acts of violence toward the government and society in the past with those who have criticized the government in the past. Again, criticism is no different than terrorism in the mindset of the current FBI.

       While the FBI is busy calling half the population in America extremists, they ought to take a closer look at themselves. With the views expressed in the Project Megiddo report, what percentage of the US population is the FBI, in fact, representing? I dare say, it undoubtedly is in the single digits. In fact, in order to help them take that closer look, I think it's high time Congress look into this matter and give the FBI the same treatment that it gave to the IRS just a couple of years ago. Let's hold hearings and dissect this agency to find out just who and what is making it tick before we lose the liberty to do so once and for all.