Fri 8/23: More “Domestic Terrorism” laws won’t help! We need to start tracking the haters better. – 2 actions

Apologies that this is a long post. But this issue targets our resistance movement as well as minorities. We need to understand it.

Action #1 – Acknowledge that our first instinct is wrong. “NO” on all the “Domestic Terrorism” bills.

The FBI doesn’t need any new “anti-terrorism” laws. They already has all the tools they need with the Patriot act. “There are already 52 federal crimes of terrorism (listed at bottom of this post) that apply to entirely domestic acts, five federal hate crimes statutes that address the bias crimes often committed by white supremacists commit … and dozens of other statutes that can and have been used to prosecute domestic terrorists. The Justice Department’s failure to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of white supremacists results from a policy choice, not a lack of authority.Michael German, former FBI special agent.

Wait a minute…who are they looking at instead of white supremacists? Us!

Under the existing flexible definition of domestic terrorism“, referenced in all the many proposed domestic terrorism bills, the Department of Justice, are “aggressively targeting groups like Black Lives Matter activists (which the FBI labeled as “black identity extremists”), Standing Rock water protectors, environmental activists, and anti-Trump protesters, who are far less violent than white supremacists and far-right militia groups that are consistently committing violence.” The FBI is also working in concert with punitive state ag-gag and ALEC-inspired anti-protest laws, which have been increasing penalties for protesters from misdemeanors to felonies with 10-yr. sentences and $100,000 fines, or even for the organizations planning protests of “critical infrastructure”. The Trump administration is trying to make actions like  blocking pipeline construction workers a 20-year federal sentence. Good for both his fossil fuel AND private prison friends!

“To recap: The FBI created a new category of threat,” NPR’s Hannah Allam noted. “[A]nd two years later quietly abandoned it without explanation.”

Don’t give law enforcement, politicians and corporations more tools to punish the wrong people. These (mostly) well-intentioned “Domestic Terrorism” bills DO NOT re-define or clarify “domestic terrorism”and who is being targeted. Their focus on increasing penalties just make it more dangerous for the rest of us to use our 1st amendment rights or to be a minority. So a big “NO” on the following bills and any other similar ones that may occur in the future.

  • H.Res.536 – Strongly condemning the violent actions of Antifa and recognizing that it engages in domesticterrorism. – Rep. Green (R-TN)
  • H.R.1931 – Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2019 – Rep. Schneider (D-IL)
  • H.R.4187 – Domestic Terrorism Penalties Act of 2019 – Rep. Weber (R-TX)
  • H.R.4192 – Confronting the Threat of Domestic Terrorism Act – Rep. Schiff (D-CA)
  • S.894 – Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2019 – Sen. Durbin (D-IL)

(Call script below under Action #2)

Action #2 – Support something that will help. Ask your legislators to co-sponsor and push through these Jabara-Heyer NO HATE ACT” bills

What the FBI does need is accurate information on who is committing hate crimes. Neither Heather Heyer’s death at the Charlottesville protests, nor Khalid Jabara’s at the hands of his xenophobic neighbor were reported as hate crimes to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (U.C.R.) program, despite both of their killers being convicted of hate crimes in court. Experts warn that the great majority of hate crimes are not reported to the national database and without accurate data to guide them, the FBI continues their laser-focus on the wrong people. HR 3545 and S.2043 concentrates on fixing this. (see Sen. Kaine’s (D-V) statement here for more detail). The bills will:

  • Improve Reporting of Hate Crimes
  • Encourage Law Enforcement Prevention, Training, and Education on Hate Crimes
  • Establish and fund Hate Crime Hotlines
  • Expand assistance for victims.
  • Allow Judges to Require Community Service or Education for Perpetrators of Hate Crimes. Studies show that increased criminal penalties do not serve as an effective crime deterrent, and hate crime victims indicate a preference for restorative justice approaches.
  • U.S. DOJ would be required to study the relationship between hate crime policies and the level of participation of law enforcement with regard to reporting allegations of hate crimes.
  • These bills are endorsed by the ACLU; the Arab American Institute; Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, California State University, San Bernardino; the Heather Heyer Foundation; Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights; the Matthew Shepard Foundation; Muslim Advocates; the National Center for Transgender Equality; the National Disability Rights Network; Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT); and the Sikh Coalition.

Where are our legislators on these bills?

  • HR 3545National Opposition to Hate, Assault, and Threats to Equality Act of 2019” or the “NO HATE Act”-  Rep.-check here: Ask both Carbajal and Brown to cosponsor this.
  • S.2043 – “Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act” – Sen-check here. Thanks Sen. Harris, ask Feinstein to sign. 

Minimal script for both Actions: Hi, I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Rep./Sen. [____] to support {Rep. – HR 3545/Sen. – S.2043} – the “No Hate Act” bill.

Extra credit: This bill helps to create a reliable data bank on domestic terrorism. Please do not vote for “Domestic Terrorism” bills such as {Rep – H.Res.536, HR 1931, 4187 or 4192/ Sen. – S.894} that only add punishments, without adding the necessary public accountability or transparency to the DOJ’s investigations.

Contact

Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26)email,DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
or Rep. Salud Carbajal (CA-24):
 email.  DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
Senator Feinstein: email, DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
and Senator Harris: email, DC (202) 224-3553, LA (213) 894-5000, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884
Who is my representative/senator?: hq-salsa.wiredforchange.com 

Background – Part #1 – Hate Crimes are under- and mis-reported. 

What is the Uniform Crime Reporting program: Under the Hate Crimes Statistics Act (H.C.S.A.) of 1990, the attorney general is required to collect data on hate crimes submitted from state and local law enforcement using a standardized reporting system called the Uniform Crime Reporting (U.C.R.) program. If done correctly, it would allow the FBI to do better analysis across jurisdictions on a national level. But it only works if it gets accurate information.

Structural problems with the program: The F.B.I. provides law enforcement agencies with instructions and guidelines for reporting hate crimes through the U.C.R., but it’s not enough. Because the database depends on voluntary reporting from local agencies with differing definitions of hate crimes, the results are riddled with errors. And although 18,000 agencies in the United States do make some reports, many don’t. Some states, including Indiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico, do not even have a UCR program, so agencies in those states must report directly to the FBI, an extra step that many do not take, accounting for huge numbers of omissions, like those of Heather Heyer and Khalid Jabara.

Why aren’t police reporting?: (policechiefmagazine)

  • Many officers have not been trained to recognize a hate crime. They may not understand the victims’ culture or even their language, much less know how to ask the right questions, interpret body language, or read between the lines in their statements.
  • Victims don’t report hate crimes as they perceive that law enforcement won’t help or sympathizes with their abusers, are unaware of their rights or support services, or are fearful of reprisal.
  • Young males committing hate crimes under the guise of “just for fun” confuse the categories for law enforcement. Gang violence is often not reported, even when the act meets the criteria for a hate crime.
  • Police chiefs want to protect the “safe” reputation of their towns.
  • Incentive to report, with all the extra paperwork, is low. Police often feel that a local prosecution is the end of the matter.

How big is the gap?: (Kaine.Senate) According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), there was a sharp uptick in reported hate crimes in the fourth quarter of 2016 following President Trump’s election, creating the second largest surge since the FBI began collecting data in 1992. But the FBI’s annual Hate Crimes Statistics report didn’t catch this. In 2016, of the 15,254 agencies that participated in reporting hate crimes to the FBI, nearly nine out of 10 reported zero hate crimes; in Mississippi, agencies reported just seven incidents in the entire state. In 2017, the report reflected that approximately 7,000 hate crimes occurred nationwide, when the SPLC believes the number is closer to approximately 250,000 per year. Most of these offenses involve vandalism, intimidation, or assault; at least 15 people were reported to have been killed. Many instances of domestic extremism, including acts perpetrated by an increasing number of white nationalist groups, would also fall under this category.

What’s happening in Hate-land? Who knows?: The current failure of the registry to obtain comprehensive information about hate crimes “blinds federal law enforcement and policy makers of intelligence about the nature, scope, and impact of far-right violence in the United States. Understanding the organized nature of this violence is key to dismantling the violent groups that perpetuate these crimes. The FBI and Justice Department should step up with federal investigations and prosecutions when state and local law enforcement are either unable or unwilling to prosecute the perpetrators of far-right violence.Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “We don’t know what the patterns are,” she continued. “Would it be anti-Semitism that was at the top of the pile? Historically it’s been anti-black hate crimes that take the lion’s share. Would it be that? I don’t know. I just don’t know. There’s no way to know.”

What could happen if we close the gap?: (policechiefmagazine) “Reporting these crimes can lead to positive outcomes. An example of how reporting can lead to a positive outcome can be drawn from the unfortunate shooting deaths of six members of the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in 2012. The incident was not only reported as a hate crime, it was highly publicized by the media, leading 26 senators to request that the UCR program be expanded to include tracking of hate crimes against Hindus, Arabs, and Sikhs. Similarly, a series of attacks against Latinos in Patchogue, New York, in 2008, and the previously mentioned murder of the Ecuadorean immigrant by young men who were targeting “Mexicans,” jolted the mayor into action and moved the townspeople to work together to prevent bigotry. When crimes are characterized as hate based, they’re more likely to get attention and promote action.

Background – Part #2 – Cup of coffee time – “Domestic Terrorism” is misdirected. None of the new “get-tough” laws fix that.

Despite reports to the contrary, both international and domestic terrorism are defined in federal law. Statute 18 U.S.C § 2331(5) defines domestic terrorism as 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 intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping, and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

We’re publishing this great letter to the Senate from the ACLU against S.894 – “Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act”  in full with the permission of the co-author, Manar Waheed. Download here to share.  

April 11, 2019

Re: Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, S. 894

Dear Senator:

The American Civil Liberties Union has significant concerns regarding S.894, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act. While well intentioned, this act has repercussions for people of color and other marginalized communities populations that have long been targeted for unjustified and discriminatory domestic terrorism investigations and surveillance. Law enforcement agencies’ use of the existing domestic terrorism frameworks undermines and has violated equal protection, due process, and First Amendment rights. Attempts to further these frameworks will serve to target the very communities that Congress is seeking to protect.

The ACLU urges you not to cosponsor this legislation or to move this bill forward until the concerns have been resolved. If the proposed bill goes to the floor in its current form, the ACLU will oppose it.

The ACLU has numerous concerns regarding this legislation, which would double down on an already flawed domestic terrorism framework that has long targeted marginalized populations ranging from Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities and Black civil rights activists to animal and environmental rights activists as well as other groups the government views as having “unpopular” or controversial beliefs. Expanding a framework that discriminates against people of color and other marginalized communities reinforces the harm these communities already suffer. Rather than protecting these populations, this legislation would entrench long-standing problems, and result in the further unjustified and discriminatory surveillance, investigation, and prosecution of people of color and other marginalized communities, including those engaged in First Amendment-protected activities.

This bill codifies the authorities and actions of national security and counterterrorism components of the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security, authorizing domestic terrorism units or offices to monitor, investigate, and prosecute incidents of domestic terrorism. These agencies have long used the domestic terrorism framework to monitor and investigate people of color and other marginalized communities, rights activists who dissent against government policies, and those with views agencies deem controversial. Agencies have also interpreted the domestic terrorism framework to authorize surveillance and investigation of protest-related conduct posing severe consequences for individuals’ First Amendment rights.

These kinds of government abuses are not new, and they are ongoing. Civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., were investigated for their organizing and civil disobedience on similar grounds in the past. 

More recently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has used these frameworks to spy upon Muslim communities, including by infiltrating their places of worshipThe Justice Department leads and participates in a Suspicious Activity Reporting program, collecting and sharing information about people engaged in activities that are loosely labeled as “suspicious,” without even a reasonable suspicion of criminal activityIn addition to encouraging racial and religious profiling, this program also targets those engaged in First-Amendmentprotected activity. Agencies have monitored and infiltrated organizations such as the AmericanArab AntiDiscrimination Committee (ADC), People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and Greenpeace, rather than investigating credible threats of actual wrongdoing. One of these investigations even included contact lists for students and peace activists participating in an oncampus conference. Muslims in America have for years been wrongfully targeted in sting operations and overbroad prosecutions under the guise of preventing or addressing purported terrorism threats, and law enforcement agencies continue to discriminatorily investigate and surveil Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities.

The proposed bill also authorizes the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division to establish a section to specifically investigate domestic terrorism, ignoring the Division’s record of abuses. For example, the Counterterrorism Division recently issued an “intelligence assessment,”identifying what it calls “black identity extremists”—an inflammatory term for a group that does not even exist—for investigation as a domestic terrorism threat. The FBI disseminated its intelligence assessment, called “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers,” to more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies; it claims, without evidence, that Black people involved in unrelated police killings shared an ideology that motivated their actions. It also focuses on Black people who, in the bureau’s own words, “perceive[] racism and injustice in American society.” This is only one recent example of the FBI’s use of resources to discredit and disrupt the advocacy of Blackactivists and Black-led organizations. In October 2017, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray expressing concern regarding the intelligence assessment and the agency’s reliance on unfounded and discriminatory logic. Rather than addressing the concerns of the CBC, the FBI has yet to repudiate the faulty intelligence assessment. Doubling down on this discriminatory framework by codifying and authorizing these law enforcement authorities does not protect communities of color. It serves to reinforce an already problematic and harmful framework.

This bill also exacerbates long-standing privacy and efficacy concerns arising from the sharing of information through joint terrorism task forces (JTTF) and fusion centers. The proposed legislation seeks to codify the sharing of intelligence by the various agencies that comprise these entities, and the execution of a plan to address domestic terrorism. However, this sharing of information currently operates without meaningful transparency and public oversight of the information that is shared or how such information will be used—and safeguards against civil rights and privacy abuses. JTTFs create a partnership between federal, state, and local agencies, deputizing local and state police as federal agents and sharing information without standards of proof regarding “suspicion.”10 With over 180 JTTFs nationally, agencies have targeted communities of color, often Muslim and immigrant communities, for unjust profiling, surveillance, and investigation without any suspicion of criminal activity. Similarly, fusion centers were designed to organize localized domestic intelligence gathering into an integrated system between federal and local law enforcement. Unfortunately, their participation in the terrorism framework has allowed federal, state, and local law enforcement and homeland security agencies, other state andlocal government entities, the federal intelligence community, and military and even private companies to spy on law-abiding people in the United States.

Fusion centers have varied widely in their activities and raised significant privacy and civilliberties concerns due to their excessive secrecy, lack of clear supervision, wholesale data collection and manipulation, and the proven risk of widespread data sharing and surveillance by the military and private sectordata they would not have legally been able to gather on their ownIndividual fusion centers have also released bulletins that reflect an unjustified focus on people of color and other marginalized communities, individuals’ First Amendmentprotected beliefs and practices, and activities participating government agencies perceive to be controversial. This unjustified focus includes scrutiny of historically black colleges and universities, which one state’s fusion center described as “radicalization nodes;” basic religious accommodations for Muslims in America; and, protestors on both sides of the abortion debate. The Department of Homeland Security has used fusion centers to monitor those engaged in protest and organizing, like Black Lives Matter.

Government documents have shown that fusion centers yield little intelligence of value and waste resources while trampling on the civil liberties of innocent people. In 2012, the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee published a bipartisan report citing both the civil liberties harms and wasted resources of fusion centers. Despite this longstanding experience and the significant concerns raised by civil liberties organizations as well as members of Congress, the proposed bill seeks to codify the role of fusion centers with these federal components, reinforcing the problematic sharing of data without insight into who federal law enforcement agencies deem to be “suspicious,” how and when such information is being shared with local law enforcement, and how such information is being used. Sharing of information for law enforcement monitoring or investigation without transparent standards or proof should not be enhanced or bolstered, as this proposed legislation seeks to do. 

Congress must not reinforce deeply problematic frameworks and systems that have long targeted people of color and other marginalized communities. Enacting “domestic terrorism” legislation would not only entrench a system that lacks meaningful oversight, transparency, and legitimate standards, but also codifies a framework that is used to target and discriminate against the very communities Congress hopes to protect. We urge members not to cosponsor or support this dangerous bill unless these concerns are resolved.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Manar Waheed at
mwaheed@aclu.org, Senior Legislative and Advocacy Counsel. Co-author Ronald Newman, National Political Director

Laws that already exist against acts of “domestic terrorism”.

According this awesome report by the Brennan Center, “Statute 18 U.S.C. § 2339A criminalizes material support that facilitates the commission of any one of 57 previously enacted terrorism-related offenses, which are explicitly listed in the statute.52 Statute 18 U.S.C § 2332b(g)(2) defines these 57 predicate offenses as “federal crime(s) of terrorism.”53 A review of these 57 federal crimes of terrorism reveals that 51 of them, or 89 percent, are applicable to both international and domestic terrorism. Each of these 51 offenses can be independently used to prosecute cases of domestic terrorism, providing numerous options for prosecutors to address these threats.”

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Reading

  • (KTUU) Advocates push hate crime bill in honor of Heather Heyer
  • (NYTimesHate Crimes Are Slipping Through the Cracks
  • (Brennancenter) Seeking more effective responses to far-right violence and hate crimes.
  • (Brennancenter) Wrong priorities on fighting terrorism
  • (PoliceChief) The Hate Crimes Reporting Gap: Low numbers keep tensions high.
  • (CNN) Heather Heyer’s not on this FBI list. How hate crimes become invisible
  • (law&crime.com) Charlottesville Victim Heather Heyer Was Not Included in FBI’s Hate Crime Registry
  • (VOX) Why the El Paso shooter isn’t being charged with terrorism
  • (theintercept.com) Fear of a black homeland: The strange tale of the FBI’s fictional
    “Black Identity Extremism” Movement.
  • (TulsaWorld) Hate crime legislation named for Tulsan Khalid Jabara, Heather Heyer proposed to improve data, reporting
  • (salon) Trumped-up charges: Feds try to criminalize Inauguration Day protests
  • (theintercept) Terrorism’s double standard: Violent far-right extremists are rarely prosecuted as terrorists.
  • (the intercept) The Green Scare: How a movement that never killed anyone became the FBI’s No. 1 Domestic Terrorism Threat.
  • (ACLU) How the USA Patriot Act Redefines Domestic Terrorism
  • (the intercept) Why new laws against white supremacist violence are the wrong response to El Paso.
  • (atlantic) Trump shut programs to counter violent extremism.
  • (theguardian) “Blood on the their hands”: the intelligence officer whose warning over white supremacy
  • (the guardian) Revealed: FBI and police monitoring Oregon anti-pipeline activists
  • (abc) Why domestic terror designation in El Paso shooting likely won’t result in terrorism charges
  • (salon) Leaked documents show FBI targeted post-Ferguson “black identity extremists” over white supremacists.

 

 

 

 

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