“Domestic terrorism” the new excuse to erode even more civil liberties.
By John Whitehead
This is how it begins. We are moving fast down that slippery slope to an authoritarian society in which the only opinions, ideas, and speech expressed are the ones permitted by the government and its corporate cohorts.
In the wake of the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol, “domestic terrorism” has become the new poster child for expanding the government’s powers at the expense of civil liberties. Of course, “domestic terrorist” is just the latest bull’s eye phrase, to be used interchangeably with “anti-government,” “extremist,” and “terrorist,” to describe anyone who might fall somewhere on a very broad spectrum of viewpoints that could be considered “dangerous.” Watch and see. We are all about to become enemies of the state.
In a déjà vu mirroring of the legislative fall-out from 9/11, and the ensuing build-up of the security state, there is a growing demand in certain sectors for the government to be given expanded powers to root out “domestic” terrorism, the Constitution be damned. This demand for greater domestic policing powers follows the same pattern as every other “convenient crisis” used by the government as an excuse to expand its powers at the citizenry’s expense and at the expense of our freedoms.
Cue the “Emergency State,” the government’s Machiavellian version of crisis management that justifies all manner of government tyranny in the so called name of national security. This is the power grab hiding in plain sight, obscured by the political machinations of the self-righteous elite. This is how the government continues to exploit crises and use them as opportunities for power grabs under the guise of national security. Indeed, this is exactly how the government added red flag gun laws, precrime surveillance, fusion centers, threat assessments, mental health assessments, and involuntary confinement to its arsenal of weaponized powers.
The objective is not to make America safe again. That has never been the government’s aim. Investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald explains:
Why would such new terrorism laws be needed in a country that already imprisons more of its citizens than any other country in the world as the result of a very aggressive set of criminal laws? What acts should be criminalized by new “domestic terrorism” laws that are not already deemed criminal? They never say, almost certainly because—just as was true of the first set of new War on Terror laws—their real aim is to criminalize that which should not be criminalized: speech, association, protests, and opposition to the new ruling coalition.
Yet where many go wrong is in assuming that you have to be doing something illegal or challenging the government’s authority in order to be flagged as a suspicious character, labeled an enemy of the state, and locked up like a dangerous criminal. In fact, all you need to do these days to end up on a government watch list or be subjected to heightened scrutiny is use certain trigger words, surf the internet, communicate using a cell phone, limp or stutter, drive a car, stay at a hotel, attend a political rally, express yourself on social media, appear mentally ill, serve in the military, disagree with a law enforcement official, call in sick to work, purchase materials at a hardware store, take flying or boating lessons, appear suspicious, appear confused or nervous, fidget or whistle or smell bad, be seen in public waving a toy gun or anything remotely resembling a gun (such as a water nozzle or a remote control or a walking cane), stare at a police officer, question government authority, or appear to be pro-gun or pro-freedom.
With the help of automated eyes and ears, a growing arsenal of high-tech software and hardware techniques, government propaganda urging Americans to turn into spies and snitches, as well as social media and behavior-sensing software, government agents have been busily spinning a sticky spider web of threat assessments, behavioral sensing warnings, flagged “words,” and “suspicious” activity reports aimed at snaring potential enemies of the state. It’s the American police state’s take on the dystopian terrors foreshadowed by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Phillip K. Dick all rolled up into one oppressive pre-crime and pre-thought crime package.
Dig beneath the surface of this kind of surveillance/ police state, however, and you will find that the real purpose of pre-crime is not safety but control and a covert attempt to push us that much closer toward a suspect society where everyone is potentially guilty of some crime or another and must be preemptively rendered harmless.
In much the same way that the USA Patriot Act was used as a front to advance the surveillance state, allowing the government to establish a far-reaching domestic spying program that turned every American citizen into a criminal suspect, the government’s anti-extremism program renders otherwise lawful, nonviolent activities as potentially extremist.
Be warned: Once you get on a government watch list—whether it’s a terrorist watch list, a mental health watch list, a dissident watch list, or a red flag gun watch list—there’s no clear-cut way to get off, whether or not you should actually be on there.
You will be tracked wherever you go. You will be flagged as a potential threat and dealt with accordingly. This is pre-crime on an ideological scale, and it’s been a long time coming. If you’re not scared yet, you should be.
We’ve made it so easy for the government to identify, label, target, defuse, and detain anyone it views as a potential threat for a variety of reasons that run the gamut from mental illness to having a military background to challenging its authority to just being on the government’s list of persona non grata. You don’t even have to be a dissident to get flagged by the government for surveillance, censorship, and detention. All you really need to be is a citizen of the American police state.
Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. Several of his books are available from the AFP Bookstore. He can be contacted at [email protected].