Definition of Domestic Terrorist

Most of us would like to think that the way our government defines and interprets terrorism, is one of sound and reasonable judgement, of common sense, and one which coincides with our own view.

Think about how you would define terrorism or a terrorist. Have you ever wondered if it matches that of what your government considers it to be?

While we might mostly agree with the government view of an international terrorist, such as a foreign combatant who blows himself up with the intent of killing others, we might not all agree on how our government defines a ‘Domestic Terrorist’…

How the USA PATRIOT Act redefines “Domestic Terrorism”

Section 802 of the USA PATRIOT Act expanded the definition of terrorism to cover “domestic,” as opposed to international, terrorism.

A person engages in domestic terrorism if they do an act “dangerous to human life” that is a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the United States, if the act appears to be intended to:

(i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion;
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.

The definition of domestic terrorism is broad enough to encompass the activities of organizations, activists or protestors who are exercising their apparent Constitutional rights to ‘coerce’ a civilian population to their political viewpoint or to influence the policy of a government… e.g. Freedom of Speech. So, in other words, those who oppose the existing policy of government and choose to influence others for change… are domestic terrorists, provided that they break a law, any law… e.g. accidental trespassing, misdemeanor, or other… Yes, they apparently could be considered domestic terrorists, if the government chooses to do so.

This is not made up. Look it up… Section 802 of the USA PATRIOT Act.

How many actions or behaviors of individuals or organizations could fit into the definition of being “dangerous to human life”? It is quite broad, and could be used at will, to cover lots of ordinary (but “dangerous…”) behaviors that ordinary Americans may participate in. Driving a car can be dangerous to human life… e.g. you accidentally do not come to a complete Stop while taking a right turn at a red light while leaving a protest rally. It may seem ridiculous, but where’s the narrow definition? There is none… just saying.

Point (iii) appears to be sensible.

The civil asset forfeiture power of the United States government is awesome under “Seizure of assets – Sec. 806” of the Patriot Act.

The government can seize and/or freeze the assets on the mere assertion that there is probable cause to believe that the assets were involved in domestic terrorism. (Again, the definition could include ordinary groups or individuals who are opposed to existing government policy and are exercising their right to Freedom of Speech in an attempt to influence others, but may have broken a law by failing to pull a proper permit for their protest rally.)

According to information from the ACLU,

The assets are seized before a person is given a hearing, and often without notice.

In order to permanently forfeit the assets, the government must go before a court, but at a civil hearing, and the government is only required to prove that the assets were involved in terrorism by a preponderance of the evidence.

Because it is a civil proceeding, a person is not entitled to be represented by an attorney at public expense if they cannot afford to pay an attorney.

The time between seizure and forfeiture can sometimes be months; meanwhile, organizations or individuals whose assets are seized are forced to make do without the assets. Only the most financially flush organizations would be able to successfully defend themselves against government forfeiture.

In short, without the full due process afforded in criminal cases, the U.S. government can bankrupt political organizations it asserts are involved in “domestic terrorism”.

But wait, there’s more…

A flyer produced by the FBI (Communities Against Terrorism project) titled, “Potential Indicators of Terrorist Activities”, indicates what they feel to be compelling signs that you may be a domestic terrorist.

Quoted from the document,

People or Groups Who:

Provide identification that is inconsistent or suspect or demands identity “privacy”

Insist on paying with cash or uses credit card(s) in different name(s)

Significantly alters appearance from visit to visit (shaving beard, changing hair color, style of dress, etc)

Have missing hand/fingers, chemical burns, strange odors or bright colored stains on clothing

Make racist or extreme religious statements coupled with comments that are violent or appear to condone violence

Make suspicious comments regarding anti – US, radical theology, vague or cryptic warnings that suggest or appear to endorse the use of violence in support of a cause

Demonstrate interest in uses that do not seem consistent with the intended use of the item being purchased

Possess little knowledge of intended purchase items of items

Make bulk purchases of items to include:

Weatherproofed ammunition or match containers

Meals Ready to Eat

Night Vision Devices; night flashlights; gas masks

High capacity magazines

Bi-pods or tri-pods for rifles

The problem as I see it, is that some of the actions in this list are ordinary, while the list and its message is creating suspicion around such activities. A further brainwashing of Americans that it is bad to do things like paying in cash, to buy bulk purchases of food, to attempt to remain anonymous while denying your personal information to the cashier at some store while simply trying to pay for your stuff, etc…

They even have anonymous Tip phone lines and email for reporting this stuff!

As an American, I am all for reasonable domestic security and common sense approaches, something we’ve managed to accomplish with local law enforcement for a few hundred years now while maintaining our personal freedom… but ask yourself, WHY is the Federal government so concerned about Americans and our behavior? We constantly hear about new efforts they’re taking on domestic surveillance, spying, profiling, etc… Why?

Why not focus on simply protecting our nation’s borders, minding our own damn business internationally, and stop spending us into oblivion with this bloated gigantic bureaucracy that we call the U.S. government? …oh Gawd, now I’ve done it… I spoke out while perhaps influencing someone’s viewpoint! I hope I didn’t break any laws…

The point being made here is that there are now federal laws on the books today that could be enforced in such a manner to eliminate opposition, if the government so chooses. We have allowed this to happen, and it is a reality. We would like to think that our government will behave rationally, but again, they now have the levers to pull, if it comes to that…

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