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We’re All Terrorists Now

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I'd count myself among the first to agree that one of the legitimate roles of the Department of Homeland Security is to make sure that we aren't attacked by terrorists, including those of the homegrown variety. The next Timothy McVeigh or Ted Kaczynski is as much of a threat to the safety of the nation as the cleverest al Qaeda operative who might sneak over the border from Mexico or go AWOL on his student visa.

Yet on reading a controversial new report from DHS, I have to wonder about the selective and political nature of their concerns. They seem to have a handle on one or two potential sources of domestic terrorism, while completely dismissing or ignoring other potentially much more serious threats.

Their report focuses entirely on domestic terrorism originating basically from disgruntled conservatives. Their concern over racist and nativist groups and their rising activism seems justifiable, but in the document they spread their net awfully wide to include just about every kind of conservative who might have legitimate concerns over the policies of the Obama administration and the political trends in the nation. They break potential terrorists down into two groups — hate groups, whose inclusion makes a great deal of sense, and a much broader category of those whose motivations are "mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely." This is an extremely broad category which could easily include those who have been promoting 10th Amendment state sovereignty legislation or who oppose federal bailout and stimulus spending. It's a group which includes a great many people who would never sensibly be classed as terrorists. It's a group which includes me.

They also express understandable concern over a resurgence of conspiracy fanatics who "believe that a “New World Order” would bring about a world government that would usurp the sovereignty of the United States and its Constitution, thus infringing upon their liberty." You only have to visit to see that the potential for extremist violence from that quarter remains very real. Yet they don't seem to grasp the difference between those fanatics and the much broader and more mainstream popular concern over actual threats to civil rights originating with the current administration. They seem not to understand that when the Second Amendment is actually threatened, it is the anticonstitutional actions of government and not those who want to stand up for their rights which is the problem. I guess that reflects what side their bread is buttered on and who is buttering it for them.

Their callous awareness that the administration is potentially creating terrorists by its actions and their acknowledgment that there is a real attack on gun rights, is rather dismaying. Of the gun rights issue they write:

"Legislation has been proposed this year requiring mandatory registration of all firearms in the United States. Similar legislation was introduced in 2008 in several states proposing mandatory tagging and registration of ammunition. It is unclear if either bill will be passed into law; nonetheless, a correlation may exist between the potential passage of gun control legislation and increased hoarding of ammunition, weapons stockpiling, and paramilitary training activities among rightwing extremists…Because debates over constitutional rights are intense, and parties on all sides have deeply held, sincere, but vastly divergent beliefs, violent extremists may attempt to co-opt the debate and use the controversy as a radicalization tool."

This is probably a genuine concern, but in the report they seem totally oblivious to how broadly based the discontent with gun rights restriction is, and how large a role the actions of the government play in radicalizing ordinary citizens. I worry whether they can tell the difference between legitimately concerned citizens and actual potential terrorists. I'm not happy with legislation to restrict gun rights. I might be buying a lot more ammunition as a result of shortages. Does that make me a terrorist?

For some critics of this report it also prompts a legitimate concern that it may put too much focus on broadly targeting veterans and soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan. It seems to take the attitude that anyone with a military service background is automatically a terrorism suspect just because they might be a high value recruiting target for anti-government groups. The report raises the issue of "disgruntled military veterans," without considering the reasons why they might be disgruntled, focusing only on the potential for the rise of another Timothy McVeigh, a possibility which could be most easily prevented by addressing the psychological and social support needs of returning veterans, rather than looking at them as a group as potential terrorists. It seems a shameful disservice to operate on the assumptions which DHS expresses in this document.

Perhaps what troubles me the most here is what's not addressed and the politically one-sided nature of this report. Historically the US has faced as much threat from domestic terrorists on the left as on the right, yet it is the rise of "rightwing extremism" which is the sole concern here. It's all about the next Timothy McVeigh, with no attention to the threat of the next Unabomber. This despite the fact that ecoterrorism and far left radicalism are demonstrably on the rise here in the US, mirroring an enormous growth in "leftwing extremism" and in particular anarchism on a worldwide basis.

I worry because this document is just a starting point for a much wider exploration of the idea that the right wing is a haven for terrorists. It is the unfortunate but perhaps inevitable outcome of the security measures taken after 9/11, where the legitimate need to monitor real threats begins to come under the sway of politics. The report concludes by declaring that:

"DHS/I&A will be working with its state and local partners over the next several months to ascertain with greater regional specificity the rise in rightwing extremist activity in the United States, with a particular emphasis on the political, economic, and social factors that drive rightwing extremist radicalization."

This is a frighteningly broad mandate. The biggest factor driving "rightwing extremist radicalization" could very well be the activity of government in stigmatizing the political right, classing them as extremists and terrorists and launching partisan investigations of anyone who speaks out against the current administration and its policies. When you start calling people radicals and extremists because you disagree with their political beliefs you take the first step towards driving them to become what they are unfairly accused of being.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • Cindy


    I am always shocked at how naive people on the right are. The government is about protecting itself from anyone who disagrees.

    It seems that when the right was content, you libertarians didn’t notice the militarization of the police forces, the attacks against peaceful leftist protesters. Why would you? Like someone said in another thread–hey I don’t smoke, so I don’t care if the government puts outrageous taxes on cigarettes.

    You do not get to disagree with the government, not on a constitutional or any other basis, unless you express your disagreement in a completely impotent way. All protesters are potential terrorists.

    Waking up now Dave?

  • Clavos

    I have long been of the opinion that the most ominous and strongest threat to the American people is their own government, but until now I’ve always thought the checks and balances would keep their zeal under control.

  • Matthew T. Sussman

    You’re missing it, Cindy. First, stupid liberals were terrorists. Now with the tables turned, everyone’s a terrorist. Says so right in the headline. How did you miss that?

  • roger nowosielski

    The signs of Imperial Government coming into being.

  • Dave Nalle

    Actually, the Bush administration paid minimal attention to domestic terrorism and especially ignored potential terrorists of the left. Only very late last year did they start taking the anarchist threat seriously and thus were able to infiltrate anarchist groups and prevent bombings at the DNC. The Bush administration was all about foreign terrorism.

    This new directive seems to be switching some of that emphasis towards domestic, politically oriented terrorism from right wing groups in particular. I think that’s a legitimate concern up to a point, but forcusing on the right exclusively is a mistake, and the wording in this document is so broad that it includes people who would not reasonably be considered terrorists in that category.


  • roger nowosielski

    I really think the term “terrorist” should become diluted rather than more and more encompassing to include dissent and political disagreement. Besides, the trend at work appears to run contrary to the new administration’s policy to eliminate the “War on Terror” from its political lexicon.

  • Cindy

    So, I guess this means that instead of standing together on common ground, in opposition to government (even if that may be the only common ground), we’ll just start having battles between left and right protesters about who the government should be calling terrorists.


  • Ruvy

    I haven’t looked at links to the proposed definitions of terrorist, but it seems that Cindy has nailed it on the head. What has Dave’s hair all in a knot seems to be that his special opposition bunch, state’s rights folks trying to get out of Obama’s disastrous economic policies are in the gun-sights of the Blessed of Hussein’s goons and shills.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I agree with Cindy…

    It seems we’re all up in arms over the proper nomenclature of these extremists instead of the proper procedures to diffuse future situations/confrontations.

    The problem is that both the left & the right can never come to some sort of an agreement for a solution. In cases like these,especially in civil matters, I think the government should be forced to use arbitration! AND, I think the arbitrator should be WE THE PEOPLE…

    NOW, How ’bout some sensible solutions!!!

  • bliffle

    It’s hard to believe anyone takes this report seriously. The very first words are:

    ” The DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has no specific
    information that domestic rightwing* terrorists are currently planning acts of violence,….”


    “Threats from white supremacist and violent antigovernment groups
    during 2009 have been largely rhetorical and have not indicated plans to carry
    out violent acts.”

    Don’t you guys have enough to worry about without inventing a new bogeyman?

  • Dave Nalle

    Bliffle, the first words become more ominous when you read the conclusion and understand that this is just their starting point for developing a whole policy for monitoring the activity of unpopular political minorities.

    And Cindy, I don’t see why we can’t find common ground in agreeing that broadening the defintion of who is a potential domestic terrorist is likely a very bad thing.


  • Martin

    Didn’t you write an article back in 2004 that predicted this exact thing? Some dream or vision you had about the apocalypse if John Kerry had been elected?
    Right about now you probably are wishing he had been eh buddy?
    Now your nightmare is real with Obama!
    I guess the DHS is a regular reader of your articles because your vision appears to be their vision.

  • roger nowosielski

    “And Cindy, I don’t see why we can’t find common ground in agreeing that broadening the defintion of who is a potential domestic terrorist is likely a very bad thing.”

    Isn’t the move in that direction the beginnings of the making of a police state?

    Just asking.

  • Baritone

    Dave was alarmed that Obama was going to shut down everybody’s back yard gardens, and now he repeatedly notes how it “seems” that DHS is targeting all the righteous right wing gun toters.

    In the world Dave fears, there won’t be anymore home grown cucs, and we won’t be able to show our displeasure by shooting somebody over it. Tsk,tsk.


  • Cindy

    And Cindy, I don’t see why we can’t find common ground in agreeing that broadening the defintion of who is a potential domestic terrorist is likely a very bad thing.


    That works for me. I don’t think your tea party people are any more terrorists than the students and protesters that police seem eager to teargas and bludgeon.

    And I think it helps everyone to try and stand up for our mutual rights rather than divide along all lines and let the gov’t attack any citizens.

    If any group is engaging in terrorism, judging by the many hours of video reports I watch, it’s the police.

  • Cindy


    It’s already a police state.

  • roger nowosielski

    But it shouldn’t work for you. The idea is preposterous. It would peg anyone who dissents as a terrorist. Unless I’m grossly misunderstanding you, which no doubt I am, why do you seem to approve of “broadening” the definition?

  • Cindy


    You may wish to reread what what Dave posted and what I agreed to.

    It would really help a lot if you committed to read posts carefully.

    If you don’t read carefully, it makes the other people you talk to have to work harder on your behalf. It requires continual re-explaining and correction on the part of others and it leads to huge misunderstandings at times.

    I feel as if I am given respect when someone takes the time to understand what I am saying. Do you like to be understood?

  • roger nowosielski

    I understand the issue. It’s your wording that is ambiguous. There is a time for irony, and then there is a time for not.

    For you to respond (in #15) that “it works for me” is misleading, taking into a/c Dave’s quote you’re citing.

    So don’t put the onus on me. Instead, take responsibility for your posts.

    I understand Dave’s drift without having to read the entire article. I may be off somewhat but not by a great lot. Your response was a somewhat on the cagey side, and that what I surmise.

    Hence the comment.

  • Cindy


    I wasn’t being ironic. It’s a straight forward comment. Either you aren’t reading carefully or you have a real disadvantage. I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt. But if you plan on acting like a dick, then it’s your problem.

  • roger nowosielski

    For you to respond “It works for me” to Dave’s “And Cindy, I don’t see why we can’t find common ground in agreeing that broadening the defintion of who is a potential domestic terrorist is likely a very bad thing” comment, if said with a straight face, is to say the least disturbing. The accent is on the word “broadening,” and you remark indicates that you agree. It’s this, and nothing else, that I’m questioning.

    So why don’t you clarify your muddled response rather than keep on accusing me of not getting it. Because as it stands, it is misleading. Or would you rather charge me with being a dumbell. So ultimately, I don’t give a fuck. Come forth or forever hold your piece.

  • Baronius

    Roger, context. First of all, Cindy is nearly-fanatically opposed to any use of police. Secondly, she refers to the tea party people and student protestors as not being terrorist-types, so she clearly isn’t calling for an expansion of the definition of terrorist. So the object of “what works for Cindy” is Dave’s “common ground”. There is no ambiguity here.

  • roger nowosielski

    My objection was only to her phrase, “It works for me.” It doesn’t work.

  • Baronius

    And you think that was worth getting into a cussing match with a woman?

  • roger nowosielski

    No, I don;t think there was any cussing, and if there was, I apologize. But we’re all adults. And it was she who insisted I was at fault whereas, originally at least, I asked a simple question. So should I let her get away with false pride at the expense of my being painted as an idiot?

    I don’t think so.

  • Baronius

    Like you said, Roger, you’re adults. If you look at this thread with a sense of accomplishment, then there’s nothing I can say about it. Personally, I think that if you’d minded context, you could have avoided some confusion.

  • Dan(Miller)


    The bowl of petunias, sadly, perished on Magrathea. However, to quote the late lamented petunias: “Not again!”


  • roger nowosielski

    I’ll still say, Baronius, that the remark was misleading, to say the least – context or no context.

    And I do thank you for trying to mediate it. I mean it. If she’s willing to admit that, we can move on. Otherwise, it’s no go.

  • roger nowosielski

    In closing, let me just say that I love Cindy, and I very much appreciate her keenness of mind. But I would be doing her (and myself) a great disservice by letting her get away with crap. Sorry, but that’s how i feel.

    If it were somebody else, it wouldn’t matter.

  • Clavos

    Twice in one day.

    Not a clue…

  • M ar k

    The accent is on the word “broadening,” and you remark indicates that you agree.


    Rog, you appear to be loosing it.

  • roger nowosielski

    “Broadening” means expanding the powers. You provide me with any other meaning, Einstein.
    And that’s in context of Dave’s remark/

    [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]

  • roger nowosielski

    Anyhow, that’s how I choose to read it. Unless you’d like to insist I must subscribe to what you regard as a common meaning. And why? By democratic vote, perchance?

    Hardly. I don’t go by the herd.

  • Clavos


    The gist of Dave’s remark is the following:

    “And Cindy…broadening the defintion [sic] of who is a potential domestic terrorist is likely a very bad thing”

    That’s it Rog, that’s the meaning of Dave’s remark to which Cindy replied, “Works for me,” or in other words, she agrees.

  • M ar k

    There is no ambiguity in the exchange between Dave and Cindy. They agree that broadening the definition would be a bad thing. Set the bottle down and back away from the keyboard slowly.

  • roger nowosielski

    Well, I’m wrong in that case. Somehow, I’ve read “not” into Dave’s statement. Much ado about nothing. Sorry! No offense intended.

  • roger nowosielski

    To wit, I read “likely” as “not.”

    Apologies to everyone concerned.

  • roger nowosielski

    I find it puzzling, though, Mark, that such a stupid mistake on my part, rather than being easily rectified by the party(ies) concerned, leads to name calling and impugning on my intelligence. As though there was an animosity of some kind.

    The simplest thing to do, I’d seem to me, would be to get to the root of the problem rather than having a dragged-out fight, as though it served any useful purpose.

    I really do wonder, because personally, I go to great lengths to explain my meaning if I’m misunderstood. But it looks like some people might have a vested interest not to do so but rather try to put you down for being an idiot.

    Just a thought.

  • Baritone

    I feel much better now that we’ve got all that worked out. Hey, you guys wanna get together at the malt shop? I think that’d be swell!


  • roger nowosielski

    What the hell is a malt shop, B-man? A place in Minneapolis? I looked it up, and it shows a restaurant up there. Is that where you’re from?

    Anyways, I apologize my stupidity. I’ve been under attack on my own thread for the last couple of days – vicious, I should say. I guess it took a toll, And she, too, joined in for the kill. So unconsciously perhaps, I retaliated. I can’t think of another explanation or as Clavos said, I’m really “losing it.”

    Again, sorry for the spectacle.

  • Dave Nalle

    Well, that may be the most pointless exchange of 40 comments in the history of the world.


  • roger nowosielski

    That;s OK. I guess I asked for it, and I got it.

  • Arch Conservative

    King Barry and his fascist leftist cohorts are trying to advance their agenda and people are surprised?

    The shit’s going to hit the fan sooner or later…Don’t wait…go out and buy as many firearms and ammo as you can now. You’re going to need it.

  • Silas Kain

    Arch, when will you finally realize that the “Conservatives” are more akin to this royal line of crap you espouse? Barack Obama has done his utmost to try and bridge the gap between both sides. Unfortunately White Ultra Right Conservatives are using the economy card for propaganda because beneath the facade remains a faction that is racist, oppressive and downright hostile to the intentions of our forefathers. If you are to impose the title of King upon him, at least be man enough to admit that Barack Obama is more like King Solomon than King George.

  • Cindy

    Breaking news on capitalist militant group:


    Today at dawn, New York City police surprised a gang of free market fanatics just before they could set off a massive dynamite explosion that would have blown away the entire northern wall of lower Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center. The gang members, clad in black Armani ski masks and tasteful Christian Dior jogging suits, fled the scene, leaving behind a communiqué identifying themselves as the Wealthy Underground Organization, a militant clandestine group dedicated to the “liberation” of disgraced businessman and former NASDAQ chairman, Bernard L. Madoff.


    News of the daring rescue attempt quickly spread throughout radical capitalist circles, bringing tycoons, magnates, and entrepreneurs – from corporate CEOs to ice cream vendors – to the Correctional Center to demonstrate in support of the Wealthy Underground. Picketing and chanting, protestors held signs reading “FREE BERNIE!” and “THE BANKERS UNITED WILL NEVER BE INDICTED.”


    The protest was generally peaceful, except when a passing driver got out of his Meals on Wheels van and shouted, “You don’t like it here? Go back to the Cayman Islands.” Calm was quickly restored, however, when several Goldman Sachs executives beat him senseless.

  • roger nowosielski

    Love it.

  • Silas Kain

    I want Bernie Madoff freed. And a condition of his freedom should be that he will manage the financial portfolios of all Ultra Christian organizations. That would be the ultimate justice.