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Pentagon pulls description of protesters as 'terrorists'

The Department of Defense has withdrawn a training manual question that linked protesters across the United States to terrorism, but there’s evidence coming to light that describing Americans as terror suspects, or “low-level” terror suspects, is routine.

WND reported just days ago that the U.S. Department of Defense had included in a training course a question that defined protesters as terrorists.

According to the letter from the Northern California ACLU, 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.”

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Now, according to a Fox News report, the Pentagon has withdrawn the question.

A spokesman told the network the question didn’t make it clear what the difference was between violent and illegal actions and peaceful protests, which are protected by the U.S. Constitution.

“They should have made it clearer,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Les Melnyk told Fox. He declined to specify when the line would be crossed from one into the other.

But he said all of the 1,546 people who took the exam and saw the question will be notified of the “error” and told that there is a difference between lawful objections and violent unrest.

The whole episode developed 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.

The Department of Defense situation was revealed by blogger Dennis Loo at Salon.com.

He cited an ACLU complaint demanding that the DoD change its instructions and those who have been given the training be told of the modifications by “sending out corrective materials.”

Loo reported at the time that 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.

Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, has told WND that as part of his organization’s research for its lawsuit over the DHS “extremism” report, it has discovered additional information that it is withholding now but will include in a pending amended complaint.

Thompson said one of the things that sparked the organization’s curiosity was a reference by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in the original report to not only government resources but also non-governmental resources.

Thompson said the information he has “creates even more concern that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is unconstitutionally targeting Americans merely because of their conservative beliefs.”

On the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based activist group that leans strongly left, there are boasts about the organization’s effort to “train” a number of “local, state and federal law enforcement officers” about terror suspects, “hate crimes” and similar topics.

“We focus on the history, background, leaders and activities of far-right extremists in the U.S.,” the website says. “Training sessions last from two to four hours and are tailored to fit the requesting agency’s requirements.”

Further, whatever the relationship may be between the DHS and the SPLC, the DHS has given several hundred million dollars in recent years to set up Fusion Centers – a focused investigatory facility – in several locations around the nation. And it apparently was out of one of those centers that came a recent state report in Missouri that identified people with third-party political candidate bumper stickers as suspect in the war on terror.

The SPLC said it has worked within a “groundbreaking partnership with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) that culminated in new courses on hate and bias crimes. … Courses are offered both online and in the classroom, and teach officers to recognize and respond to hate crimes. Academic and continuing education credit is granted by California State University, San Bernardino to officers who complete the online course.

“Intelligence Project staff also offer in-person trainings on extremist activity to law enforcement and offer their expertise to educational and other groups,” the SPLC said.

The SPLC also writes of its “Hate Crime Training” work.

“Intelligence Project staff have been involved in the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center’s hate and bias crime ‘train-the-trainer’ program since its inception in 1992. FLETC trains personnel for more than 75 federal law enforcement agencies and provides services for local, state and international agencies.

“FLETC invited Intelligence Project personnel to help develop and write courses for a training program to improve the recognition, reporting and investigating of hate crimes. A member of the Intelligence Project staff taught one of the program’s first pilot classes in New Jersey in 1994 and continues to instruct FLETC classes today,” the SPLC says.

The concept of “hate crimes” is being pushed through Congress, with hundreds of thousands of letters opposing it as bigoted having been delivered to members of the Senate through a write-in campaign.

Under the measure pending in a Senate committee and scheduled for a hearing next week, crimes based on the “perception” of sexual orientation would be prosecuted as more serious than the same physical action without the “perception” of sexual orientation.

Several House members who have been critical have been Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Louis Gohmert of Texas. King offered an amendment that stated nothing in the law could be used to protect pedophiles from criminal charges, but majority Democrats refused to accept it.

“Legalize the Constitution” bumper sticker

Gohmert, a former judge, said that could make it the Pedophile Protection Act, because when something is not specifically stated in a law, a judge would look at the “intent” of the writers, and in this case they had the opportunity to make sure pedophiles were not protected and chose not to do that.

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.

The report linked returning veterans with the possibility of terrorism, and when it was released it 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:

Thompson told WND no apology has been offered to the members of any of those classes of citizens.

Thompson said the original “extremism” report was “the tip of the iceberg. … 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 the 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 encouraged 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.