Redefining terrorism

By Joseph Farah

I’m worried.

I’m concerned that many of the anti-terrorism laws we’re passing in America won’t be used against terrorists at all, but rather against ordinary citizens.

In fact, there’s evidence it is happening already.

Let me give you one example.

Steven A. Magritz of Wisconsin doesn’t fit the terrorist profile. Yet he is the state’s first victim of an anti-terrorism unit formed after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In 2001, Dane County seized his 62-acre property in the town of Fredonia because he reportedly didn’t pay some $30,000 in property taxes. Now the property, with frontage on the Milwaukee River, is being turned into parkland.

Well, understandably, Magritz was pretty upset by the action. So what did he do? Did he hijack a plane? No. Did he make threatening comments to government officials? No. Did he hold anyone hostage? No.

Instead, what he did was to file legal documents against government officials that were found to be false.

For this, he has been found guilty of “paper terrorism” and faces up to 70 years in prison and fines totaling $70,000.

An outrage? I would say so. But unless you are reading the news briefings of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, you wouldn’t know about this. It’s not front-page news – anywhere. In other words, my colleagues in the press see this as a matter of routine. And maybe they are right. I fear they may be right. Such abuses of power may be happening all over the country.

It took a jury only 45 minutes to find Magritz guilty of “paper terrorism.” A jury convicted him of seven counts of criminal slander of title – accusations that he filed legal documents against government officials that he knew were bogus.

The charges were filed last May after Magritz sent three dozen Ozaukee County officials hundreds of fake legal documents in retaliation for the foreclosure on his property.

It was probably not a good idea by Magritz, but is it terrorism? Is it an offense worthy of 70 years in prison? Have not government officials over-reacted under the color of law?

But it gets worse.

The charges were filed by the attorney general’s new Domestic Security Unit, which is tasked with investigating and prosecuting anti-government activists who try to intimidate government officials, police and citizens by filing false legal documents.

Domestic Security? Is Magritz a threat to domestic security? Or is he, perhaps, a simple public nuisance? Is he more accurately a headache for government officials? Is he an angry man who had his property confiscated by an unsympathetic government for failure to pay back taxes? Is he perhaps feeling betrayed by public officials who were probably overly eager to grab some private land on the water for the creation of a new park?

Abuses like that by government have been on the increase for 30 years or more. Government acts like there is no such thing as private property any more – particularly if it is property coveted by officials for some “greater public good.”

And guess what? Magritz may be the first Wisconsin resident convicted of “paper terrorism,” but he won’t be the last. Another dangerous accused “paper terrorist” is set for trial in April. William Benzing is also charged with filing bogus legal documents and demanding that sheriff’s deputies pay him $3 million.

Once again, let me remind you why the Domestic Security Unit was established in Wisconsin – to combat crimes like those associated with the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Do you see how government passes laws with one stated rationale only to use the laws and enforcement agencies against a different group of people altogether?

It happens. This is not unusual. In fact, this is the norm. This is the routine. While this may seem outrageous to you, remember abuses like this are being reported only as news briefings in local papers.

We have met the enemy in the war on terrorism and – surprise! – it is us!