With the recent events at Capitol Hill in mind, a look ahead at what is likely to be one of the Biden Administration's first legislative items is in order, particularly given Joe Biden's history with the issue.
Let's start with this speech given by Joe Biden on January 7, 2021 in an address to the nation (1 minute 5 second mark):
Here is a transcript of the key section:
"Yesterday, in my view, was one of the darkest days in the history of our nation.
An unprecedented assault on our democracy, an assault literally on the citadel of liberty, in the United States Capitol itself. An assault on the rule of law. An assault on the most sacred of American undertakings: ratifying the will of the people and choosing the leadership of their government.
All of us here grieve the loss of life. Grieve the desecration of the people's house.
But we, what we witnessed yesterday was not dissent, it was not disorder, it was not protest. It was chaos. They weren't protesters — don't dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob of insurrectionists, domestic terrorists."
Note the use of the words "domestic terrorists". You will be hearing that phrase many times over the coming months.
Let's now look at what the Council on Foreign Relations, one of the most influential think-tanks in Washington, had to say about the issue of "domestic terrorists" through an post-Capitol Hill events interview with Bruce Hoffman, a CFR Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security and former Corporate Chair in Counterterrorism and Counterinsurgency at the RAND Corporation as shown here:
Let's start by looking at his definition of terrorism (my bold):
"Terrorism is determined by the act itself, not by the type of perpetrator or their cause. This is the U.S. government’s approach. The FBI, the lead agency for countering terrorism, cites the definition of terrorism found in 18 U.S. Code 2331(5) [PDF]: “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” The FBI further defines domestic terrorism as acts intended to be a means to “Intimidate or coerce a civilian population; [or] Influence the policy of government by intimidation or coercion.”
He goes on to state that:
"What occurred at the U.S. Capitol yesterday conforms to this definition. It involved people using violence or the threat of violence to intimidate democratically elected representatives, the wanton vandalization and destruction of government property, the deliberate subversion of the U.S. electoral process, and the derailment of the peaceful transfer of power that is the hallmark of U.S. governance."
The events on Capitol Hill were a catalyst for America's mainstream and not-so-mainstream media as shown here:
1.) Washington Post:
3.) Mother Jones:
4. ) Propublica: noting the use of one of the few members of the "mob" wearing a gas mask to ensure that its readers are filled with fear:
5.) NBC News:
Some influential members of the mainstream media and academia were discussing the need for control of domestic terrorism :
6.) ABC News: was part of the "domestic terrorism" narrative a week prior to the events on Capitol Hill as shown here:
7.) The Center for Strategic and International Studies: was also in early as shown on this screen capture from a CSIS Brief on October 22, 2020:
Here is an excerpt from the introduction to Collins' missive (my bolds):
"Although the United States has taken a powerful stance in fighting the War on Terror, and attempts have been made to define domestic terrorism alongside international terrorism within federal legislation, there is a “considerable amount of ambiguity over domestic terrorism, what it means precisely, [and] how it’s charged.” This ambiguity arises from the lack of a standalone criminal offense outlawing domestic terrorism. In light of this ambiguity and the rise in domestic terrorism within the United States since September 11, 2001, the United States needs to enact a law specifically outlawing domestic terrorism but has clear bounds to its application. Accordingly, this paper recommends that Congress enacts the law set forth here, which outlaws actual, threatened, attempted, or conspiracy to violate a criminal law of the United States or any state, where the person does not act pursuant to a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), an act takes place in within the jurisdiction of the United States, and the acts appear to be intended to (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population, or (ii) influence the policy or conduct of a government by intimidation, coercion, or violent means."
According to Collins:
"Section 802 of the USA PATRIOT Act…defines domestic terrorism as committing “an act dangerous to human life” violative of the criminal laws of a state or the United States, if the act occurs primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and 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."
It is interesting to note that Collins brings up the USA PATRIOT Act that was signed into law on October 26, 2001 in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. This act which has the goal of "Of Preserving Life and Liberty" and seeks to deter and punish terrorists, a laudable goal, however, it has led to massive and irreversible changes in how the state deals with the privacy and civil liberties of the very citizens that it seeks to protect by giving governments wide-ranging powers of surveillance without judicial approval as shown here:
In addition, the very same Joe Biden who will be taking over the reins of Washington has repeatedly claimed that he was the author of the USA PATRIOT Act by way of a bill that he wrote in 1994 in response to the Oklahoma City bombing as shown here:
Let's close this posting with a few points to ponder. As we know from relatively recent history, governments love to have an excuse to snoop on our private lives and that once the laws are in place to legalize government actions, they are never rescinded. Given the repeated appearance of the "domestic terrorism" narrative over the past year and Joe Biden's referring to the "mob" that "invaded" Capitol Hill as "domestic terrorists", we can pretty much assure ourselves that Washington will be enacting a bill to counter this "threat" at its earliest convenience. As far as what Congress uses to define "domestic terrorism" is pretty much anyone's guess with the strong possibility that "spreading disinformation" and "questioning election outcomes" included among crimes that are part of "domestic terrorism". Additionally, such laws could ultimately be used to quash political viewpoints that are not shared by the ruling party.
By repeatedly floating the "domestic terrorism" mantra and with a severely polarized political reality, the Biden Administration is signalling its intention to further trample on what few civil rights we now have. The events on Capitol Hill will be just the excuse needed.
Remember, one person's terrorist is another person's hero. It's all in your perspective as it has been throughout history.
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