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Joe Biden has the people who took over the Capitol on Jan. 6 figured out. In just two days, he had them pegged for “a bunch of thugs, insurrectionists, white supremacists, and anti-Semites, and it’s not enough.” Not enough? He also said they were “domestic terrorists.” Senators Charles Schumer and Lindsay Graham, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, “Squad” leader Cori Bush and plenty of others agreed that they were domestic terrorists. Even the mayor of Orlando says so, and DC mayor Muriel Bowser called the occupation “textbook terrorism” so that clinches it.
Curiously, there is a federal definition of domestic terrorism, but it isn’t a crime. There is now tremendous pressure to change that, and depending on what kind of law takes shape, there could be huge implications for dissidents.
For now, this definition from 18 U.S. Code § 2331 is worth studying:
(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that — (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended — (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
Does this apply to the Capitol takeover? Domestic terrorism must be an illegal act “dangerous to human life” and meant to influence policy. The Trump supporters wanted to influence policy alright, but what does “dangerous to human life” mean? The Michigan Penal Code says it is “that which causes a substantial likelihood of death or serious injury.”
That wouldn’t include trespassing, breaking and entering, or even scuffling with the police. Anyone who may have killed Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick would meet the definition of a “domestic terrorist,” but the circumstances of his death are still not clear. It may be there wasn’t a single “textbook” domestic terrorist at the Capitol that day. Lefties are gloating over the death of Ashli Babbitt, but the only thing she did that was “dangerous to human life” was stop a bullet.
Why all the talk about “domestic terrorism”? I suspect it’s because people can’t stand the idea that the Trump mob could be guilty of nothing more than trespassing. Time reports sadly that there are no laws against domestic terrorism, but lists the charges it wants brought: seditious conspiracy, which carries a 20-year maximum sentence, homicide, assault, interstate travel in aid of racketeering, restricted-area violations, vandalism, and trespassing.
Sure enough, the Justice Department has set up a task force to file sedition and conspiracy charges. The investigation is said to be “one of the most expansive criminal investigations in the history of the Justice Department.” The authorities promise to hunt the rioters — many of whom just walked through an open door — to the ends of the earth as if they were Osama bin Laden. The contrast with the handling of BLM and antifa rioters is stark.
Democrat Rep. Bennie Thompson, who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security, has another idea. “Given the heinous domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol,” he wants everyone involved put on the No-Fly List.
Rep. Jason Crow, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, wants the US Army Secretary to track down and court martial every soldier who entered the Capitol. A court martial requires a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, usually for a serious felony.
Wikipedia describes John McCain’s daughter Meghan as a “columnist, author, and television personality.” She wants the rioters sent to Guantanamo: “They should be treated the same way we treat Al-Qaeda” — yet another American frustrated by the lack of a law against domestic terrorism.
Why isn’t there one? In 1975, the Church Committee in the US Senate found that the FBI had spied on American citizens in groups such as the Black Panthers and the Ku Klux Klan. These are not criminal organizations. You can’t be prosecuted or have your phone tapped just for being a member or making a donation. The FBI has to find probable cause for a specific crime to investigate a Klansman.
There are very different rules for “foreign terrorist organizations” (FTOs). It’s against the law to join one, and you can get a 15-year sentence for providing “material support,” which could be just giving a phone card to someone in the organization. The government can seize an FTO’s assets without notice, and any bank that thinks an account-holder is an FTO has an obligation to freeze the funds and notify the Treasury.
There are 67 FTOs, mostly Islamic, some familiar: branches of ISIS and Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, HAMAS, Boko Haram, and the Al-Nusra Front. There are also some old-timers, such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), all designated as FTOs in 1997.
Last year, with much fanfare, the Trump administration designated the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) as an FTO, boasting that it was “the first time in history the [State] Department has designated a white supremacist terrorist group.” The department says that RIM — which is fervently Russian Orthodox and wants to bring back the Tzar — trained Swedish terrorists who were convicted in 2017 of bombing a refugee center and asylum seekers in Gothenburg. RIM leader Denis Gariev, said the designation was “a big surprise.” It’s not clear what makes RIM “white supremacist;” it had set up camps to train men to fight in Ukraine — against other whites.
Lefties were of course pleased that “white supremacists” can now officially be “terrorists.” This is very important for any potential new law because the occupation of the Capitol has unleashed a wave of vitriol against “white supremacy,” even though there is no evidence the Trump supporters had the slightest racial motivation. NBC News ran this headline: “’Vintage white rage’: Why the riots were about the perceived loss of white power.” Politico tells us “there’s a term for what happened at the Capitol this week: ‘whitelash’.” The Atlantic explained that “the Capitol riot was an attack on multiracial democracy.” The Guardian’s headline was “Insurrection Day: When White Supremacist Terror Came to the US Capitol.”
Black Congressman Hank Johnson told Al Sharpton that the black Capitol policeman who killed Ashli Babbitt had singlehandedly put down a lynch mob: If he hadn’t shot her, “I have no doubt that some of us who look like me would’ve been hanging from the railings of the 3rd floor, onto the House floor, swinging like . . . strange fruit.” Nancy Pelosi said that the people who entered the Capitol “have chosen their whiteness over democracy,” whatever that means.
This perfectly matches the views of Richard Durbin, ranking member on the Senate Subcommittees for Defense and for the Constitution. In 2019, he introduced the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, which called white supremacy “the most significant domestic terrorism threat facing the United States.” The act was only about 3,000 words but used “white supremacist” 12 times, “neo-Nazi” six times, “far-right” eight times, and “hate crime” 10 times. It was silent on any other kind of domestic terrorism. Sen. Durbin says he will reintroduce the bill right away in light of the Capitol takeover.
There is no telling what laws could pass in this fevered environment, but it’s important to note what Mr. Durbin’s 2019 bill did and did not do. It did not make domestic terrorism a crime or authorize the designation of “domestic terrorism organizations,” which would mean jailing Americans as if they were Al-Qaeda members and seizing assets without notice. What it did do was set up special offices in the FBI, Justice Department, and Homeland Security “to analyze and monitor domestic terrorist activity and . . . take steps to prevent domestic terrorism.” It’s anyone’s guess what those “steps” were supposed to be.
The bill also required the three agencies to “review each hate crime incident reported during the preceding year to determine whether the incident also constitutes a domestic terrorism-related incident,” though it didn’t say to what end.
Sen. Durbin loves to quote FBI Director Christopher A. Wray’s testimony before Congress in 2019: “A majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we’ve investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacy . . . .”
However, the bill used the definition of “domestic terrorism” from 18 U.S. Code § 2331 cited above, which is ideologically neutral. That means Black Lives Matter and antifa commit vastly more “domestic terrorism” than all the “white supremacists,” “neo-Nazis,” and “far-right extremists” combined. Anyone who shouts “Defund the police,” “Justice for Breonna Taylor,” “Black lives matter,” or even “I can’t breathe” is trying to “influence the policy of a government.” If, in that context, someone commits an illegal act “dangerous to human life,” he is a domestic terrorist. Since the death of George Floyd, there have been countless dangerous-to-human-life acts of arson and aggravated assault; even attempts to stop ambulances from bringing wounded officers to emergency rooms. If “white supremacists” were organizing freeway shutdowns, they would surely count as “dangerous to human life.”
If there are any grounds for optimism, it is that — at least for now — it is not constitutional selectively to outlaw the political positions the regime doesn’t like. Lefties would be subject to the same law. It is impossible to imagine a Biden Justice Department enforcing the law even-handedly, but it would apply equally to antifa, climate-change maniacs, abortion supporters, and animal rights fanatics.
The occupation of the Capitol has unleashed something difficult to see as anything other than vindictive hysteria. Nancy Pelosi is introducing articles to impeach Donald Trump just seven days before he leaves office. So much for Joe Biden’s calls for “unity,” to “give each other a chance,” and to “put away the harsh rhetoric.”
In this environment, anything is possible. If Democrat spitefulness and the latest and most egregious big-tech censorship campaign goad Trump supporters — or just ordinary Americans — into a few spasms of “domestic terrorism,” a Democrat president and Congress could very well pass laws that specifically deny First-Amendment protections to “white supremacists.” The Washington Post was arguing for a “hate speech” ban well before Joe Biden revealed that it was white supremacists and anti-Semites who had overrun the Capitol. By coincidence, the very day of the takeover — and without referring to it — the New York Times told us that “a debate has broken out over whether the once-sacrosanct constitutional protection of the First Amendment has become a threat to democracy.” “Hate speech,” of course, threatens democracy. There is no telling what a revamped Supreme Court — packed with half a dozen Biden-appointed justices — would find constitutional. What we write at AmRen.com could become illegal.
There is another dimension to this, and that is our rulers’ insufferable self-importance. In 1998, a paranoid schizophrenic named Russell Weston pushed into the Capitol with a revolver and shot two Capitol Police officers. Their coffins lay in honor in the Rotunda, and the two were buried with full honors in Arlington National Cemetery. That same year, 191 other officers died in the line of duty, but they weren’t protecting the precious lives of congressmen and senators, so they got nothing.
Two days after the Capitol occupation, Nancy Pelosi ordered the Capitol flag flown at half mast for Brian Sicknick, who died in the takeover. I don’t mean to belittle Sicknick’s sacrifice, but what consideration does Congress show for other officers killed on the job? Many Democrats think city police officers are racist rabble. During the BLM riots, they railed against “police brutality” and Kamala Harris was not the only one to contribute to bail funds for rioters. But when a mob brushed up against their sacred selves, it turned them into hanging judges; my guess is that if it had been up to them, they would have given the Capitol Police shoot-to-kill orders.
When Congress reconvened after the occupation, Nancy Pelosi scorned the “desecration of this, our temple of Democracy.” Temple of Democracy? Are she and her fellow Democrats gods or just priests? Vox went one further and called the Capitol the “fortress of democracy,” a good name for a building from which barons rule serfs.
When our overlords are feeling magnanimous, they talk about “the people’s house,” but woe to the “people” who set foot in it on January 6. Nancy and her pals don’t seem to realize that what they want isn’t justice; it’s revenge, and I don’t doubt that is the spirit in which they will take up the question of “domestic terrorism.”