Just weeks after a scandal erupted over a Department of Homeland Security report that described as “right-wing extremists” those who oppose abortion and support secure national borders, another report is revealing that the Department of Defense is teaching that protesters are “low-level terrorists.”
The newest action to define those who disagree with positions adopted by the government or administration of the United States was revealed by blogger Dennis Loo at Salon.com.
He cited a complaint filed by the northern California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union demanding that the Department of Defense change its instructions and those who have been given the training be told of the modifications by “sending out corrective materials.”
According to the ACLU letter, the DoD’s “Annual Level 1 Antiterrorism (AT) Awareness Training for 2009” tells department personnel “that certain First Amendment–protected activity may amount to ‘low-level terrorism.'”
Specifically the training “Knowledge Check 1” asks, “Which of the following is an example of low-level terrorism activity?”
The multiple choices are: Attacking the Pentagon, IEDs, Hate crimes against racial groups and Protests.
The correct answer in the training course is “Protests.”
According to Loo, the use of the term apparently is routine.
“I have just learned of a scholarly conference paper presented earlier this year that underscores the fact that the DoD training’s use of ‘low-level terrorism’ is hardly an anomaly. ‘Low level terrorism’ is a term regularly being used by state security agencies,” he wrote.
He cited a document at the February convention in New York titled “Labeling ‘Low Level Terrorism’: The Out-Definition of Social Movements.”
Wrote a participant in the Salon forum page, “One of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our Founding Fathers used in their struggle for independence.”
Said another, “Yep, when regular legally protected political protest is becoming classified by the powers-that-be, we know we have turned another corner into darkness. Perhaps this is the era the Great UN-enlightenment.”
Blogger Jim Bovard added, “I still believe that we have not yet seen the tip of the iceberg of federal efforts to classify political protests or opposition to the government as terrorism.”
Blogger Josh Richman at the Costra Costa Times said, “I guess I’m surprised not only that the government hasn’t yet learned its lesson about equating the exercise of our cherished constitutional rights with terrorism, but also that it’s so incredibly obvious in doing so.”
“Teaching employees that dissent on issues of public concern is something to be feared, rather than encouraged, is a dangerously counterproductive use of scarce security resources, making us less safe as a democracy,” the ACLU letter to the Pentagon said.
“DOD employees cannot accomplish their mission of protecting our nation and its values unless they understand that those values encompass the right to criticize our government through protest activities. It is imperative that they are taught the difference between political, religious or social activism and terrorism.”
“Peaceful protest is not terrorist activity, it is protected by the First Amendment and is one of the cornerstones of our democratic society,” the ACLU said. “The fact that the views espoused may be unpopular or may be critical of the government is hardly a reason to treat engaging in dissent as a suspect activity.”
The earlier DHS report was “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” WND has posted the report online for readers to see.
It also has prompted, as WND has reported, a lawsuit by Thomas More Law Center.
Law Center President Richard Thompson said the promise by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to “reword” it truly is “scary because we know they are still going to maintain some kind of targeting for various people that she’s never apologized to or never retracted [her accusations].”
The report linked returning veterans with the possibility of terrorism and when it was released and created such a furor for Napolitano she has given several explanations for it, including that she would have reworded the report and that it was issued by a rogue employee.
She later apologized to veterans for having linked them to terror.
But Thompson noted that the report also targeted as “potential terrorists” Americans who:
- Oppose abortion
- Oppose same-sex marriage
- Oppose restrictions on firearms
- Oppose lax immigration laws
- Oppose the policies of President Obama regarding immigration, citizenship, and the expansion of social programs
- Oppose continuation of free trade agreements
- Are suspect of foreign regimes
- Fear Communist regimes
- Oppose a “one world” government
- Bemoan the decline of U.S. stature in the world
- Are upset with loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs to China and India, and more
And Thompson told WND no apology has been offered to the members of any of those classes of citizens.
Thompson said as part of his preparation for the lawsuit, his organization has uncovered “additional information” that “creates even more concern that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is unconstitutionally targeting Americans merely because of their conservative beliefs.”
Thompson said that information will be released in due course.
“This report was the tip of the iceberg,” Thompson said at the time. “Conservative Americans should be very outraged.”
The Thomas More Law Center filed its lawsuit against Napolitano and the DHS on behalf of nationally syndicated conservative radio talk show host Michael Savage, Gregg Cunningham of the pro-life organization Center for Bio-Ethical Reform Inc. and Iraqi War Marine veteran Kevin Murray.
It alleges the federal agency violated the First and Fifth Amendment constitutional rights of these three plaintiffs by targeting them for disfavored treatment and chilling their free speech, expressive association, and equal protection rights. The lawsuit further claims that DHS encourages law enforcement officers throughout the nation to target and report citizens to federal officials as suspicious rightwing extremists and potential terrorists because of their political beliefs.