Passing a domestic terrorism bill is one of the big-ticket items Democrats think they can sell America on, particularly after the Capitol incursion. They’ll have to sell one of their loudest dissidents on it first, however.
Former Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, in an appearance on Fox News on Tuesday, sounded a warning about the dangers of domestic terror legislation, saying her own party is attempting to “undermine the rights and freedoms” guaranteed under the Constitution.
President Joe Biden’s campaign platform stated that if he were elected president, he would “[w]ork for a domestic terrorism law that respects free speech and civil liberties, while making the same commitment to root out domestic terrorism as we have to stopping international terrorism.” This is pleasantly vague, although treating domestic terror threats the same as international terror threats would be problematic.
Biden’s efforts, like most Democrats, seem to be focused around fringe right-wing groups, particularly white supremacist and hate-based organizations. There’s currently no way to label a group as “domestic terrorists,” however — and Democrats should probably think that’s a good thing, considering that some have discussed labeling both antifa and Black Lives Matter as terrorist organizations.
Despite this political portent, many Democrats are considering resurrecting bills introduced in past sessions of Congress to create a generic “domestic terror” crime, including one by California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff that failed in 2019.
Former CIA Director John Brennan praised those efforts in comments delivered last week during an appearance on MSNBC, when he saluted the Biden administration for moving in “laser-like fashion” to confront “what looks very similar to insurgency movements that we’ve seen overseas” that bring together “an unholy alliance, frequently, of religious extremists, authoritarians, fascists, bigots, racists, nativists, even libertarians.”
.@JohnBrennan: Biden intel community “are moving in laser-like fashion to try to uncover as much as they can about” the pro-Trump “insurgency” that harbors “religious extremists, authoritarians, fascists, bigots, racists, nativists, even libertarians” pic.twitter.com/SjVXWhPhR8
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) January 20, 2021
Yes, even the libertarians.
In a viral video released earlier this week, Gabbard slammed mob that assaulted the Capitol on Jan. 6. However, she also turned her fire on “the John Brennans, Adam Schiffs and oligarchs in Big Tech who are trying to undermine our constitutionally protected rights and turn our country into a police state with KGB-style surveillance.”
They are “also domestic enemies, and much more powerful — and therefore dangerous — than the mob that stormed the Capitol,” she said.
… trying to undermine our constitutionally-protected rights and turn our country into a police state with KGB-style “surveillance” are also domestic enemies—and much more powerful, and therefore dangerous, than the mob which stormed the capitol. …
— Tulsi Gabbard ? (@TulsiGabbard) January 26, 2021
In her appearance Tuesday on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Gabbard noted that “the very first thing that any president does after they’ve gotten elected, any member of Congress and every one of us who has served in the military is, we take an oath, and we swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
“The reason that this is the first thing that we do is because our Constitution is the foundation of this country and who we are. It is what guarantees us our civil liberties, our freedoms that are endowed to us, not by any man or person in government, but are endowed to us by our Creator, and so this is something that we must all unite around.”
She went on to say that it’s already “something that we recognize that those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 trying to stop Congress from fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities, they were acting as domestic terrorists undermining our Constitution.”
However, she said, “those like John Brennan, Adam Schiff, and others are also acting as domestic terrorists because they are also undermining our Constitution by trying to take away our civil liberties and rights that are guaranteed to us.”
Quoting John Brennan’s bizarre musings on that unholy alliance of authoritarians and libertarians — did he think about this one? — she added that “this is the extent that they are going to try to undermine the rights and freedoms that are guaranteed to every one of us, and it’s incredibly dangerous.”
Gabbard is sui generis when it comes to nationally known Democrats. An Army veteran, she endorsed Bernie Sanders in 2016 before launching her own failed bid for the Democratic nomination in 2020. However, to the extent her politics could be defined on a linear scale, she’d probably be on the right wing of the party.
Another problem for the Schiffs and Brennans of the world, however, is that the Democrats’ left flank thinks it’s a bad idea, too. Three members of the notorious Democratic “squad,” for instance, have come out against it.
I’m leading the call for national security powers to not be expanded in light of the attack on our nation’s Capitol that occurred two weeks ago, as such measures often lead to the erosion of Americans’ civil liberties. pic.twitter.com/K6IHTPQzne
— Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (@RepRashida) January 19, 2021
Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan told the U.K. Independent that domestic terror laws are “just going to target people who look like me or communities like mine.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar — while talking up her “disgust” at what she saw as double standards toward how pro-Trump Capitol rioters were treated — said that “we must resist the very human desire for revenge — to simply see the tools that have oppressed black and brown people expanded,” according to The Washington Post.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who on Wednesday told MSNBC’s “All in with Chris Hayes” that there are “white supremacist sympathizers” in the House Republican caucus and that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy “answers to these QAnon members of Congress,” has also managed to cobble together more sense than the Democratic establishment on the domestic terror issue:
As the Vice Chair of the Oversight subcommittee who ran investigations into domestic terror laws, I respectfully disagree.
Our problems on Wednesday weren’t that there weren’t enough laws, resources, or intelligence. We had them, & they were not used.
It’s time to find out why. https://t.co/zGVLM2MZS7
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 9, 2021
Everything we’re currently looking at can be dealt with effectively via existing laws — and that’s not what this is about.
Democrats and the Biden administration want tools that erode liberty so they can go after perceived political enemies. There are enough statutes on hand to bust up internal terrorist organizations without slapping the provisions of some new law on them.
Furthermore, Democrats like Gabbard and Ocasio-Cortez are right to be afraid of where this goes. It’s not just going to be used against right-wing groups. One hopes that, if such law is passed, Republicans won’t misuse the powers when they’re given the keys to the same overly broad statutes the Schiffs and Brennans of the world want for themselves.
The fact remains they could, however — which is why every American ought to oppose this incipient attack on our Constitution.
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