Thursday, February 18, 2010

Huh? Since When Is Attempting To Blow Up A Federal Building NOT An Act Of Domestic Terrorism?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Fox News' anchors seemed eager to assure viewers today that the plane-crash attack on IRS offices in Austin this morning was not an act of domestic terrorism.

Oh really?

Now, it's true that Homeland Security officials originally released this statement:
“We believe there’s no nexus with criminal or terrorist activity”
They later amended this to just say "terrorist activity." Fox's Catherine Herridge also reported that Homeland Security officials had briefed President Obama on the incident, and that he had been told "this was not an act of terrorism."

So how did Fox's anchors interpret all this?

Greg Jarrett:
And the president was told this was not an act of terrorism. We have not received word, though, as to whether the F-16s are still airborne, just in case, until the Department of Homeland Security and the military is absolutely satisfied that this is the act of a single individual who used a dangerous instrumentality, to be sure, a plane, as a weapon.

And it is akin, I suppose, Megan, to, you know, somebody who gets angry at a workplace, and takes a gun, or a knife, and goes in and begins to attack people. This is unusual because instead of a gun or an automobile, it was indeed an airplane. But it has happened before.
Megyn Kelly:
Our Homeland Security contacts telling us, this does not appear to be terrorism in any way that that word is conventionally understood. We understand from officials that this is a sole, isolated act.
Well, this is true only if the conventional understanding of the word "terrorism" has now been narrowed down to mean only international terrorism and to preclude domestic terrorism altogether.

Since when, after all, is attempting to blow up a federal office as a protest against federal policies NOT an act of domestic terrorism?

You know, Timothy McVeigh used a "dangerous instrument" to kill 168 people in Oklahoma City. He too was angry at the federal government, and was converted to the belief that acts of violence was the only means possible to prevent the government from overwhelming our freedom and replacing it with tyranny. He also believed that his act of exemplary violence would inspire others to take up similar acts to stave off the threat of tyranny.

And that's exactly what Joseph Andrew Stack believed too:
I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. ... I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less. I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are. Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.
Now, some of Fox's misunderstanding may be the result of sources at Homeland Security who are being careless with how they define terrorism. Because clearly, this was not an act of international terrorism, nor a product of a larger terrorist conspiracy (thus the reference to the nexus.

Herridge moved toward making this distinction, but was never clear in her report:
Kelly: I take it that they mean terrorism in the larger sense that most of us are used to?

Herridge: They mean terrorism in that capital T way. If it does turn out to be an intentional act, that could be something entirely separate.
This too is nonsense: There are different kinds terrorism, to be certain. There's international terrorism. Then there's domestic terrorism, sometimes conducted by a larger conspiracy, and sometimes conducted by small cells like McVeigh and Terry Nichols, and lone wolves like Eric Rudolph, Scott Roeder and James Von Brunn.

All of these acts fit the FBI's twin definition of terrorism:
Domestic terrorism refers to activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state; appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. [18 U.S.C. § 2331(5)]

International terrorism
involves violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or any state. These acts appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping and occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.
Joseph Andrew Stack's act this morning fits that definition too. Brian Stelter at the NYT notes that all the networks are treading around the word gingerly. Fox, meanwhile, is running hard and fast with the claim that it wasn't terrorism at all.

Which is funny, for a network that made a big deal about the Obama administration's supposed softness on terrorism.

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