by Anthony Berg of the Advance Titan
Thursday, February 19, 2009
The word terrorism evokes fear by its namesake and suspicion by its
reputation. Its definition is grossly misunderstood.
Terrorism can be defined as "asymmetrical warfare from the position
of the inferior power that uses violence or the threat of violence
upon citizens of a nation to force the dominant power structure to change."
Terrorism is a tactic and therefore value neutral.
Though meant as a statement of neutrality, the mention of the word
"terrorism" in any modern discourse immediately draws upon
media-driven fear and Islamic overtones.
Terrorist organizations range far from only violent Islamic groups,
including over 42 foreign terrorist organizations and the
surveillance of "suspected" groups in the United States.
The use of terrorist tactics as a basis for detainment and
observation has put many peaceful groups under suspicion and behind bars.
Recently I had a friend request his FBI file, only to find that his
participation in the group Food not Bombs had him labeled as a
suspected terrorist. He is not alone. In December of 2005, the New
York Times reported that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
has been unearthing documents from the FBI to file civil lawsuits for
the improper observation of groups like PETA, Greenpeace, and the
Catholic Workers group. The Catholic Workers group was detailed as
having communist ideology because it fights against poverty and for
Food not Bombs is a group that provides food at anti-war rallies and
sends proceeds to poverty-stricken war-torn areas around the world.
This is their mission and yet somehow the FBI estimates that groups
such as this have committed over 1000 criminal acts and over 100
million dollars worth of damages between 1995 and 2005.
To prevent these damages, the FBI not only observes but also detains
members of such groups on inflated charges.
Many participants in the Republican National Convention protests of
2008 were arrested "preemptively," including members of Food not
Bombs. The protests continued with the detainment and arresting of
hundreds of individuals in group arrest situationswhether or not
violence was committed. Amy Goodman and her entire film crew of
certified reporters from Democracy Now were denied their rights,
beaten and arrested without charges. The ordeal is detailed all on Youtube.
Those arrested and held were held on charges of conspiracy to riot
(not actually rioting) or conspiracy to commit criminal damage to
property (not actually damaging property) both or which can have "in
the furtherance of terrorism" added for extra penalties. The
penalties, under the 2002 Minnesota version of the PATRIOT act, could
carry from 7.5 to 12.5 years in prison since the act calls for a 50
percent increase in maximum penalty when terrorist charges are filed.
The charges are unnecessarily excessive, as it would cost the state
more to prosecute protestors than to render them constitutionally
protected in their protest. Excessive spending is justified in the
milieu of fear that surrounds someone branded a terrorist. The danger
is that terrorist and protestor are dangerously close synonyms in
legal discourse. This is not new.
In the '60s and '70s, the FBI Counterintelligence Program
(COINTELPRO) program kept surveillance on most all civil rights
groups and leaders, anti-Vietnam war groups, workers unions and
parties, and individuals deemed suspicious. COINTELPRO worked to
undermine groups by burglarizing, sending anonymous letters to
spouses in order to break marriages, getting individuals fired by
pressuring employers, planting news and editorials doctored by the
FBI in U.S. newspapers, and planting fake members in groups to
encourage violent acts (and sometimes carry them out).
With a history of trampling the First and Second Amendments,
fear-driven detainment of political dissidents, and no quarter for
the peaceful, the conquest of terrorism in the United States has been
one of restricting liberties in favor of a reactionary political landscape.
Dissidents should remember that while they are having a fun time
protesting, the state definitely takes notice; and until the protests
succeed, there are many resources to help the detainedchief among
them the ACLU.
Protestors are not terrorists, but some terrorists may be protestors,
the use of violence is the difference, but the shadow of a
possibility of conspiracy seems enough for Uncle Sam.