Skip to main content

It's all about "status quo privilege"...

FBI Disclaims Material Support for Terrorism
Prosecutions — for White People

Published July 7, 2014 | By emptywheel

Tara McElvey wrote a piece for the Beeb coming close to espousing a very (dangerous, IMO) British view: that the FBI should criminalize white supremacists’ speech the way they have Islamic terrorists’.

[Frazier Glenn Miller's] writings are a reminder of the virulence in white supremacist views. Earlier this month a married couple, Jerad and Amanda Miller (no relation to Frazier Glenn), shot and killed three people in Nevada.

The couple was steeped in white-supremacist ideology and spoke openly about their views. Police said they placed a swastika on the body of one of the victims.

Some wonder whether authorities were too easy on Frazier Glenn Miller before the killings – and are too soft on the white supremacists in the US.

The piece is most interesting for the quotes from FBI’s spokesperson, which falsely suggests it doesn’t target groups as groups.
Paul Bresson, a spokesman for the FBI, said: “We don’t target groups for who they are. If you want to be a white supremacist – legally there’s nothing wrong with that.

“What we’re concerned about is breaking the law.”


As Bresson said: “There’s nothing illegal about being weird.”

Anti-Semitism and extremist ideology seem to play a role in the violence, but Bresson and other officials say that knowing when a white supremacist – or anyone – will explode is beyond their purview.

This is, of course, bullshit. For groups named as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, the FBI does target groups for who they are, under well-worn material support laws. But even without membership in an FTO, the FBI routinely sets up stings to catch young men to precipitate their “explosion” (invariably using inert bombs)…

Marcy then mentions the FBI’s ("Waffle House") case regarding the four, elderly Waffle House plotters (“a bunch of old white men”), covered extensively in the press about three years ago. However, she then explains how the FBI “…had an informant affirmatively trying to work off his sex crime charges by setting up fellow anti-government activists.”

Wheeler than suggests that the FBI should reconsider its methodologies: “If the FBI believes it’s not in the job of precipitating personal explosions, it should stop doing so, and instead investigate actual crimes (as Bresson says they do).”

…In the case of Miller, McElvey misses a key detail. The FBI did not have just his speech. They had — and DOJ had already used — his open support for the MLK bomber, Kevin Harpham, as evidence of criminality. Miller already supported the use of violence against African Americans.

The difference, of course, is that FBI also called that a “hate crime,” not terrorism. And as a result, treated Miller’s support for terrorism as a First Amendment issue rather than a crime issue.

Hopefully, sooner rather than later, self-styled “liberal” apologists for the egregious actions of our unbridled surveillance state will realize that history—even recent history--tells us that what we’re now witnessing is: totally out-of-control status quo privilege. (What else may one call it when it becomes a widely-acknowledged fact that our country’s anti-terrorism infrastructure has morphed into a “crime-fighting” behemoth?) And, by the way, as history has also reminded us, especially when it comes to the Federal Bureau of Investigation—by far and away, the arm of our federal intelligence and law enforcement infrastructure at the forefront of warrantless, domestic surveillance--that status quo “privilege” does happen to have a bright, lily white, oligarchical sheen to it, too.

A good place to start addressing this “confusion-about-white-privilege” problem would be for the FBI to reclassify those that incite domestic “hate crimes” as the terrorists that they are. And, while our government’s at it, perhaps those that manage our federal surveillance infrastructure should also consider “reclassifying” PEACEFUL social activism for the freedom of speech that it truly is (instead).

Summing it all up, "legally," with this layperson’s analogy (re: Schenck v. United States): It would appear that our society’s—and those that surveil it and determine which laws to enforce--a bit confused about where its “clear and present dangers” actually lie.

Just sayin'...

#            #            #

UPDATE (7-7-14  3:45PM EDT): Per multiple comments in the threads, re: Schenck v. U.S. being "overturned" by Brandenburg v. Ohio, 50 years later...

Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case based on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Court held that government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless that speech is directed to inciting, and is likely to incite, imminent lawless action. Specifically, it struck down Ohio's criminal syndicalism statute, because that statute broadly prohibited the mere advocacy of violence.
Obviously, there's inherent ambiguity in the law with regard to what is versus what is not considered an "imminent threat." (i.e.: What is the anticipated result of a person that incites, say...a white supremacist...whom the person doing the inciting knows is carrying a gun [concealed or whatever] to go shoot a person of color? Does not the person carrying the gun become a potential, "imminent threat?")

#            #            #
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site