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Terrorism



All Reason.com articles with the "Terrorism" tag.



Published: Sat, 16 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Sat, 16 Dec 2017 00:22:24 -0500

 



A U.S. Citizen Suspected of Joining ISIS Has Been Held for Months Without Charges or a Lawyer

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 13:10:00 -0500

(image) An American citizen has been held in Iraq as an enemy combatant for several months, and the federal government has refused to reveal his name or to give him access to a lawyer.

According to the government, the man in question is a United States citizen who went to Syria and joined the Islamic State. Kurdish forces captured him in September, and he was handed over to the U.S. military on September 14. The authorities refuse to identify the man, and he has not been before a judge or in a courtroom since his detention.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is attempting to intervene on the man's behalf. Yesterday U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan took a dim view of the Department of Justice's excuses for keeping the man hidden at a secret prison in Iraq.

The government is being secretive about the man's identity for a reason: The Justice Department is trying to push away legal challenges to his detention by claiming that nobody has legal standing to represent him. Nobody outside the feds knows who he is, therefore nobody could claim to represent him in court. That the government itself is the reason why we don't know his identity is just the icing on the cake.

The Washington Post describes Chutkan's reaction to the Justice Department's arguments:

"How on earth is the man to exercise his habeas rights," and contest being held, Chutkan at one point asked attorneys for the government at an hour-long hearing. The judge said their position suggested "an end-run" around the Constitution by saying in effect "You don't get to exercise your habeas rights until we decide what to do with you."

ACLU attorney Jonathan Hafetz called the government's position "Kafkaesque" and "a direct assault" on the authority established by the U.S. Supreme Court during George W. Bush's presidency for U.S. citizens suspected of belonging to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to challenge detentions after being captured on the battlefield.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2004 in Hamdi v. Rumsefeld that U.S. citizens being held as enemy combatants still retain the right to due process and to challenge their classifications as combatants. The Pentagon has disclosed (after being ordered by this judge to do so) that the man has requested a lawyer. That attorney has not yet been provided.

The behavior here by the Pentagon and Department of Justice is pretty repulsive, but the fact that the case involves a U.S. citizen who has apparently joined ISIS means it's not likely to inspire much public outrage. Nevertheless, the purpose of due process is to guarantee the rights of those accused of even the most egregious of crimes. This guy has a right to a lawyer and a court hearing.

Read more about the case from the ACLU here.




Can You Trust Trump to Use Domestic Terrorism Resources to Go After White Supremacists?

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 15:42:00 -0500

If you think Donald Trump coddles white supremacists, would you trust his Department of Justice to go after white supremacist violence? The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) seems to. The same SPLC that has warned of a Trump advisor downplaying white supremacist violence, the same SPLC that says the president is responsible for a resurgence in white supremacism, is pushing the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, a bill sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Mich.) that would provide more resources for the FBI to investigate domestic terror. The bill's introductory findings refer to a spate of right-wing violence, but by and large the provisions themselves are up to the FBI to interpret. The FBI, meanwhile, seems far more likely to go after "black identity extremists" (BIEs), a term it created this year to cover what it perceives as politically motivated anti-police violence by African Americans. "The problem isn't that the FBI doesn't have enough laws on the books or resources to tackle white supremacist violence, it's that they choose to disproportionately investigate BIEs or eco-terrorists instead," says Michael German, a former FBI agent who is now a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. "Therefore this bill might not change the equation as the senators intend, but only provide more resources for abusive and wasteful surveillance and investigations of political dissent and protest activity." There are a few measures in the legislation that could be useful, if the FBI made a good-faith effort to implement them. Its data reporting provisions, for example, could help illuminate how the bureau uses its resources. And the bill would require the feds to assess the threat posed by "White supremacist infiltration and recruitment of law enforcement officers and members of the Armed Forces." Such infiltration is a serious problem: A classified 2015 FBI report found that there were often links between the law enforcement community and white supremacists under terror investigation. But you have to balance those measures against the FBI's long and storied history of targeting dissent under the guise of counterterrorism. German notes that the agency spent years claiming eco-terrorists were the top domestic terror threat, "even though there are no U.S. deaths appropriately attributed" to any environmental activist group. Yet while many Democrats, and even some Republicans, insist they understand the threat President Trump poses to democratic norms, they continue to support measures that accumulate power in the executive branch. Meanwhile, the Senate is trying to make it easier for the feds to spy on Black Lives Matter (or "black identity extremist") activists, teen sexters, and all other kinds of boogeyman. The latest Section 702 "reauthorization" is actually an expansion of warrantless surveillance powers. The bill passed committee by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. Lawmakers worried about how Trump could abuse his authority ought to be limiting, not expanding, the power that makes the person who occupies the presidency so dangerous. And they ought to understand that authoritarianism flourishes in the name of fighting terrorism, abroad as well as at home.[...]



Murderers Slip Through the Screen

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 00:01:00 -0500

Last week Sayfullo Saipov, who was approved as an immigrant in 2010, used a pickup truck to murder eight people on a bike path in Manhattan. This week Devin Kelley, who was repeatedly approved as a gun buyer in recent years, used a rifle to murder 26 people at a church in a small Texas town. The deadliest terrorist attack in New York City since 9/11 and the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history illustrate the limits of screening as a defense against violence. We would like to think that the right combination of exclusion criteria and background checks can reliably prevent mass murder, but experience tells us otherwise. Responding to Saipov's attack, Donald Trump promised on Twitter that "the United States will be immediately implementing much tougher Extreme Vetting Procedures," because "the safety of our citizens comes first!" But it is hard to imagine what procedure could have predicted Saipov's seven-year journey from eager immigrant to Islamic terrorist. According to the Uzbek government, Saipov was raised in Tashkent by an affluent family and never had any trouble with the law or gave any indication of extremism. As the winner of a diversity lottery visa, he underwent background checks, security screening, and interviews before entering the United States. Saipov, who had worked as an accountant for a hotel in Tashkent, hoped to get a job in the hospitality industry despite his limited English skills. Instead he ended up working as a truck driver, moved around a lot, and became increasingly embittered and alienated over the years. Although Saipov was not very observant at first and did not know much about his religion (according to a local imam), he was drawn to Islamic extremism. The path he followed was shaped by his post-immigration experience, and he might never have been radicalized if he had landed the sort of job he wanted or if the trucking businesses he started had been more successful. Kelley, by contrast, showed clear signs of violent tendencies years before he opened fire on parishioners at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. As an airman in 2012, he was convicted of beating his wife and son by a general court martial, which punished him with 12 months of confinement, a reduction in rank, and a bad conduct discharge. Under federal law, Kelley was triply disqualified from buying a gun: His assault on his wife was the equivalent of a misdemeanor involving domestic violence, his aggravated assault on his son was the equivalent of a felony, and his separation from the Air Force, since it was ordered by a general court martial, was the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge. But the Air Force did not report Kelley's convictions to the National Crime Information Center, so they did not show up in the FBI's background checks when he bought his weapons. The Air Force is investigating what went wrong in this case and promises to improve its reporting, which until now seems to have been limited almost entirely to dishonorable discharges. But even an improved database cannot be expected to have much of an impact on mass shootings, since the perpetrators of such crimes typically do not have disqualifying criminal or psychiatric records. The idea that screening can prevent mass shootings is nevertheless powerfully appealing. After the October 1 shooting that left 58 dead in Las Vegas, Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), who argues that Congress is complicit in gun violence because of its failure to "do something," told CNN's Jake Tapper "the most important intervention is background checks." Murphy wants to require background checks for all gun transfers, not just those involving federally licensed dealers. But as Tapper pointed out, the Las Vegas shooter "passed his background checks" because "there didn't seem to be any reason to prevent him from purchasing firearms." Even when screening demonstrably fails to stop mass murder, it does not lose its appeal among those who crave simple solutions. © Copyright 2017 by Creators Syndicate Inc.[...]



Would Extremer Vetting Have Stopped This Week's Attack in Manhattan?

Fri, 03 Nov 2017 12:50:00 -0400

In response to this week's terrorist attack in New York City, Donald Trump promised that "the United States will be immediately implementing much tougher Extreme Vetting Procedures," because "the safety of our citizens comes first!" But the more we learn about Sayfullo Saipov, the Uzbek immigrant accused of running down pedestrians and bicyclists with a pickup truck in Manhattan on Tuesday, the harder it is to see how extreme vetting, extremer vetting, or even extremest vetting could have stopped him. Last night ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, and Saipov has said the group inspired him. But so far there is no evidence that he was directly recruited or instructed by ISIS, contacts that might have offered an opportunity to catch him before he carried out his plan. More to the point, when Saipov immigrated to the United States in 2010, there was no reason to think he would one day murder eight innocent people in the name of Islam. The New York Times, citing the Uzbek government, reports that Saipov "grew up in a well-off family who practiced traditional Islam and never embraced extremism." The government said he never did anything that raised his neighbors' suspicions and never had trouble with the police. When he entered the United States after winning a diversity-lottery visa, Saipov, who had worked as an accountant at a hotel in Tashkent, hoped to get a job in the hospitality industry, despite his limited English skills. Instead he ended up working as a truck driver, moved around a lot, and became increasingly embittered, alienated, and angry over the years. Although he was not very observant to begin with and did not know much about his religion (according to a local imam), he was drawn to Islamic extremism. In particular, Saipov cited a video in which ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi asked what Muslims in the United States were doing in response to the killing of their coreligionists in Iraq. Investigators found several other ISIS videos on Saipov's phone, and he made an effort to closely follow the group's published guidelines for terrorist attacks. Contrary to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders' claim that recipients of diversity visas come to this country with "no screening," Saipov would have been interviewed and undergone background checks before entering the United States. One can always argue that screening should be more thorough, but it is hard to imagine what procedure or criterion could have identified Saipov as a future terrorist seven years before the fact. How could anyone have predicted the path he would follow between then and now, which was contingent not only on his personality but on his post-immigration experience? For all we know, Saipov never would have turned violent if he had landed the sort of job he wanted or if the trucking businesses he started had been more successful. I do not know what Trump means by "much tougher Extreme Vetting Procedures." I am not sure he knows. But unless those procedures involve psychics or time travel, they cannot rule out the possibility that seemingly moderate and eager immigrants will become radicalized years after arriving in the United States.[...]



While Politicians Call for Restricting Freedom After NYC Attack, This Immigrant Has Been Fighting For Yours

Fri, 03 Nov 2017 08:00:00 -0400

Since Tuesday's attack in New York City, our politicians have mostly bickered about who was most responsible for failing to end the Diversity Visa Lottery program that allowed alleged rental truck killer Sayfullo Saipov into the country. President Donald Trump blamed Sen. Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.)—who had initially proposed diversity visas back in 1990—calling the Diversity Visa Lottery a "Schumer beauty." Schumer and others have scrambled, saying they tried to end the program years ago. "It's obviously reactionary to just immediately say, 'OK, so we should end this program',"Carla Gericke says. The Diversity Lottery Program gives opportunities to hundreds of thousands of people like her to "come and contribute to the American economy." Gericke is a former president of New Hampshire's Free State Project, a long-time libertarian activist (who has been interviewed by Reason more than a few times) and a Diversity Lottery winner. Her perspective on the lottery is shaped by her politics and her personal experience. Gericke used the lottery to come to the United States from her native South Africa in 1996. She first applied when she was a 20-year old law student in Pretoria. "I remember I got home from school, and there was this giant envelope on my front mat," she tells Reason, "I opened it up and it was like, 'You have won the lottery'." Nearly 10 million people enter this visa lottery every year. Of those, somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 are then given permission to apply for a visa like Gericke. All applicants must go through a vetting process, which includes submitting required documentation (birth certificates, medical examinations, court records), followed by in-person interviews at a U.S. consulate, and a background check. The process took Gericke two years, and one intense grilling by State Department staff at the U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg. In 1996, she and her husband emigrated to California. "We were excited to be here," says Gericke, who found work as a lawyer for Silicon Valley tech firms. At the time, says Gericke, she was not much one for economics or politics, apart from what she describes as "small-time anti-Apartheid" activism in her youth. But then, the Dot-com bubble burst and Gericke and her husband lost their jobs. "Being naturally curious, I asked what happened? How was there this bubble, then this giant implosion," says Gericke. "That led me to Austrian economics, the Free State Project, and then Ron Paul, and life in New Hampshire." Gericke is no nativist's boogeyman. She has worked tirelessly to expand the libertarian movement. While serving as Free State president, she helped the annual Porcupine Freedom Festival to grow. She was even the plaintiff in a landmark First Amendment case that affirmed the right to film police officers. Terrible attack aside, statistics show that typical immigrants are much more Gericke than Saipov. According to the academic literature, immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans, are incarcerated at a lower rate, and actually help to increase the wages of Americans. Though most are not fire-breathing libertarians, their political views are mostly indistinguishable from those whose families have lived in the country for generations. Indeed, if we are really concerned about protecting American freedoms, we might want to put fewer restrictions on immigrants and more on native-born politicians. In the wake of Tuesday's attack, President Trump has advocated for eliminating the Diversity Visa Program and more "extreme vetting" of immigrants. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R–S.C.) has been throwing a fit about Saipov not being immediately shipped off to Guantanamo Bay, far away from a lawyer or due process rights. And Schumer, for his part, has demanded more anti-terrorism funding. "We all know this quote by now that 'they hate us for our freedoms', so the governments reaction is 'lets give people less freedom,'" Gericke says. "It's non-sensical." Ult[...]



What is the Diversity Visa Lottery Donald Trump is Blaming for Yesterday's NYC Attack?

Wed, 01 Nov 2017 12:15:00 -0400

Reports that Sayfullo Saipov—the Uzbek-born terror suspect in yesterday's attack in New York City that killed 8 people and wounded 11 others—entered the country thanks the State Department's Diversity Visa Lottery have set off a wildfire controversy about the little-known program. President Donald Trump in a tweet quickly pinned the blame for the attack on the visa program and demanded "merit based immigration." The terrorist came into our country through what is called the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program," a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2017 Others, like Sen. Jeff Flake (R–Ariz.), have hit back, pointing out Schumer supported getting rid of the Diversity Visa Lottery as part of a 2013 immigration reform effort. Actually, the Gang of 8, including @SenSchumer, did away with the Diversity Visa Program as part of broader reforms. I know, I was there https://t.co/QQFJzPyRzC — Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) November 1, 2017 Missing from this political Twitter-based tit-for-tat an explanation of what exactly the Diversity Lottery Program is. The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program was created by the 1990 Immigration Act, and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) did sponsor the original proposal to create a "diversity visa" as a way of increasing immigration from countries that send comparatively few migrants to the United States through other channels. Schumer's proposal was later rolled into the 1990 bill. The program has been controversial. Bills to undo the Diversity Immigration Visas were introduced in 2005, 2007, 2009. The 2013 "Gang of 8" immigration reform bill, which would have allowed for greater immigration in many instances, included a provision eliminating the program, as does the restrictionist 2017 RAISE Act. Conservatives have long opined that the program allows low-skill immigrants into the United States, and that the program is susceptible to fraud. Every year, 50,000 visas are made available through a lottery to "low admission" countries, defined as those that have sent fewer than 50,000 people to the United States in the past five years. The Attorney General is responsible for determining which countries count as low admission. Those hoping to gain admission under the program must have a high school education (or its equivalent), or have worked for two years in a job that requires a further two years of experience or training. Migrants that meet these qualifications submit their names each year into an electronic lottery run by the U.S. State Department, which then selects winners. Nearly 10 million qualified entrants entered the lottery for the 2015 draw (the last year for which statistics were available), and 125,514 were selected to apply for a Diversity Immigration Visa. The visa application process includes an in-person interview with State Department staff at a consulate or embassy. Visa applicants must provide a birth certificate, records of a medical examination, as well as any court, police, or deportation records that might exist for the applicant. State Department staff then confirm this documentation, and issue visas to the 50,000 to lucky winners. Family members of winners are allowed access to the United States as well. The diversity lotteries began in 1995, meaning roughly 1.1 million have entered the country since through the program. As a result yesterday's grisly attack in New York City by a lottery recipient, and the president's finger-pointing at the program, calls to eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery will only grow louder.[...]



8 Dead in Apparent Terrorist Attack in NYC

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 18:22:00 -0400

(image) At least eight people are dead, many more are injured, and a suspect is in custody in what officials are calling a terrorist attack in lower Manhattan.

Details at this point are still coming together. Police and witness reports say the driver of a truck deliberately drove on a bike path, striking several people then hitting a school bus. Then he exited the truck holding guns, but the guns were apparently pellet or BB guns.

Some more info from NBC News:

Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference the incident was "a particularly cowardly act of terror."

The suspect got out of the truck and shouted "Allahu Akbar" and fired a BB or pellet gun, four senior law enforcement sources briefed on the matter said.

"There are several fatalities and numerous people injured," New York police said on Twitter. NBC New York reported that eight people were dead, citing officials.

More from the Associated Press here. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he believes the incident was a "lone wolf" attack and not part of a larger, organized plot.

UPDATE: NBC News has named the suspect.

UPDATE II: Sources say Saipov is an immigrant from Uzbekistan and may have come to New York City from Tampa, Florida. He is now out of surgery and has talked to police.

President Donald Trump has responded via tweet:




U.K. Anti-Terror Censorship Law Stupidly Used Against Guy Who Fights Terrorism

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 14:35:00 -0400

Prosecutors in the United Kingdom didn't think Josh Walker was an actual terrorist. But they treated him as if he were one anyway, because of a book they found in his bedroom. Fortunately, they failed. But the case, highlighted at The Intercept, details some of the terrible consequences of trying to criminalize dangerous thoughts or ideas rather than actions. Walker was prosecuted for downloading and having in his possession a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook, an infamous guide to homemade explosives (and other tools for lawbreaking) that was first published in 1971. Walker wasn't plotting a terrorist attack. He was, in fact, doing the opposite. According to The Intercept and the court case, he was using the book as a reference material for a terror crisis management simulation at a college. The United Kingdom does not have the same broad First Amendment freedom of speech protections that Americans have. The Terrorism Act of 2000 in Section 58 criminalizes the ownership of "information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism." There is a defense that a person has a "reasonable excuse" for having the material, and that's what Walker had to lean on during the trial. The whole thing seemed particularly absurd because Walker had returned to the United Kingdom from Syria, where he was helping a Kurdish militia fight the Islamic State. I wasn't kidding when I said he was the opposite of a terrorist. And prosecutors knew that. From The Intercept: As the case moved forward, the prosecution acknowledged that Walker was not suspected of plotting any kind of terrorist atrocity. The government was instead arguing that his mere possession of the book was a violation of the Terrorism Act's Section 58 because it contained information that could have been useful to a terrorist if discovered. The book is freely available to anyone on the internet, and versions of it can even be purchased on Amazon. Regardless, prosecution lawyer Robin Sellers said it was possible a "radicalized" person could find Walker's copy of the book and use it to prepare an attack. The prosecution's argument seemed bizarre and without precedent. People in the U.K. have been prosecuted before under the Terrorism Act for possessing the "Anarchist Cookbook," but usually the defendants have been involved in some other kind of nefarious activity as well. In 2010, for example, a member of a violent neo-Nazi group called the "Wolf Pack" was convicted of a terrorism offense for possessing the book. He was linked, through his father, to a plot to overthrow the government and poison people. In another case, in 2011, a man was sentenced to three years in prison for selling the "Cookbook" and Al Qaeda training manuals, pocketing $113,000 in the process. Walker's case was different: He was being prosecuted solely because he downloaded and stored a copy of the book. Fortunately for Walker, the jury also found the prosecution's argument bizarre. Last week they found him not guilty. Despite the absurdity of this prosecution, the U.K.'s home secretary (essentially the equivalent of the head of America's Department of Homeland Security) actually wants to expand this anti-terror censorship law. Section 58 doesn't currently cover viewing or reading content online. So this month Secretary Amber Rudd said she wants to expand the law's reach to cover people who view "terrorist content online, including jihadi websites, far-right propaganda and bomb-making instructions." (If you'd like to know how the U.K. government would be able to know what you've been viewing online, they've covered that with the Investigatory Powers Act that went into effect at the start of the year.) Rudd says that the "reasonable excuse" exemption will remain for people such as journalists and academics who write about ideas the government has classified as "extremist." But even wh[...]



Stossel: Fear vs. Risk

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 09:15:00 -0400

On Halloween the media scare people with stories about dangerous costumes and poison candy. Most of the stories are not even true.

Lots of things Americans are scared of pose little risk.

John Stossel goes to Times Square and asks people what scares them. Most answered with low-risk dangers, like sharks, spiders, horses, and plane crashes. Common among the answers was the fear of losing control.

Flying scares many people more than driving. That's because in cars we feel in control. But there are more than 90 deaths a day from car crashes. No one's died in an American commercial plane crash in years.

Stossel says it's not good to fear so much. Fear is a friend of big government. Politicians use our fear to say, "there ought to be a law!"

Yet life in America is safer than ever. Don't let the media, and politicians, wreck your Halloween!




Before Calling People Racist or Politically Correct, Let’s Remember That Law Enforcement Has Conflicting Definitions of the Word ‘Terrorism’

Mon, 02 Oct 2017 13:32:00 -0400

I was still getting up to speed on this morning's awful news from Las Vegas when the first of many Twitter fights erupted in my feed, beginning with this pair of tweets from Slate's Jamelle Bouie: Essentially, by the definition currently in common currency, a white person cannot be a terrorist. — Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) October 2, 2017 This prompted The Week's Damon Linker to reply, "Amazing how when you assume everything is about race, suddenly everything is about race," and we were off to the proverbial races. Glenn Greenwald, for instance, tweeted: "Everyone knows (even if won't admit it) that in the early stages of mass shooting, 'no signs of terrorism' means: 'shooter isn't Muslim.'" This is emphatically not true. "Is this a terrorist incident? We do not know," David Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI's Los Angeles field office, said after Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik had been killed in a shootout with police following their murder of 14 people in San Bernardino nearly two years ago. "Have you noticed the government still is not calling this terrorism?" Rush Limbaugh scoffed at the time. So before falling once again into a rut of ritualized response, it's worth examining what different people mean at different times by the word terrorism. Start with July 4, 2002. Back then, when America's nerves were still raw to the bleeding point after 9/11, a 41-year-old Egyptian national and Irvine resident named Hesham Mohamed Hadayet took two guns and a hunting knife to LAX, and opened fire at the ticket counter of the Israeli airline El Al, killing two and wounding four. Prior to targeting Israelis on America's Independence Day, Hadayet, who U.S. immigration officials knew had been arrested back in Egypt for association with an Islamist group, had reportedly expressed anger at a neighbor for flying an American flag after Sept. 11, and also decorated his front door with a "Read the Koran'' bumper sticker. Despite all this information being known by the morning of July 5, then-White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said that day, "There is no evidence, no indication at this time that this is a terrorist." This echoed comments from L.A. Mayor James Hahn ("We have no reason to believe that this was a terrorist activity"), the office of Gov. Gray Davis ("isolated incident"), and several law enforcement officials. At the time, I was apoplectic about what I felt was a paternalistic condescension toward the public's ability to handle the truth during a moment of crisis (note that the act was judged to be terrorism months later by the FBI and Dept. of Justice). But with the passage of years and the dreary compilation of subsequent murderous acts, it has become obvious that, especially during moments of intense crisis, the law enforcement definition of "terrorism" has little in common with the dictionary description of "The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims." For instance, look at the Telegraph piece Bouie linked to support his initial "ruled out terrorism" claim: When asked by a reporter if it was an act of terrorism, Sheriff [Joseph] Lombardo said: "No, not at this point. We believe it was a local individual. He resides here locally." "I'm not at liberty to give you his place of residence yet, because it's an ongoing investigation, we don't know what his belief system was at this time. … Right now we believe he is the sole aggressor at this point and the scene is static." Sole aggressor, local individual, unknown belief system. As in the cases of Farook and Hadayet, an official during the initial moment of investigative confusion, local panic and national grief seems to be defining "terrorism" as "an act coordinated with a probably overseas-based terrorist organization." Such a definition would rule out any numb[...]



Trump's Latest Travel Ban Is Just As Legal but Not Much Smarter

Tue, 26 Sep 2017 18:05:00 -0400

It looks like the third time may be the charm for Donald Trump's travel ban, which he revised again on Sunday, dropping Sudan from the list of targeted countries while adding Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela. Yesterday the Supreme Court responded by canceling oral argument in the case challenging the second version of the travel ban, which expires next month. Assuming the Court decides the case is moot, critics would have to start again in a U.S. district court if they want to challenge the latest version, and their legal arguments would be weaker. The new order, which does not have an expiration date, imposes restrictions that vary by country. The ban on Venezuelan visitors, for instance, applies only to government officials and their families, while the ban on North Koreans, who obtained a grand total of 100 or so U.S. visas last year, has no exceptions. Neither does the ban on Syrians, and the door is closed almost completely for citizens of Chad, Libya, and Yemen. Iranians can still come as students, but not as immigrants, tourists, or business people. Somalis can come as visitors but not as immigrants. Like the second set of travel restrictions, issued on March 6 after the first one led to airport chaos and swift legal challenges, the third one, styled as a "presidential proclamation" rather than an executive order, does not apply to legal permanent residents or current visa holders. The official rationales for selecting these seven countries are based on the extent to which they serve as havens for terrorists as well as their ability and willingness to share information needed to properly screen travelers. The proclamation describes some governments, such as Iran's and North Korea's, as mainly or entirely uncooperative, while it describes others, such as Chad's and Yemen's, as important allies against terrorism that nonetheless do not currently meet U.S. security criteria. The proclamation says the countries were picked based on a "worldwide review" by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security that took several months, which makes the process look considerably more rational and deliberative than the one that gave birth to the original travel ban, issued a week after Trump took office. The addition of Venezuela and North Korea to the list, which has very little impact in terms of visa numbers, is clearly designed to allay the impression that Trump is targeting Muslims. "The fact that Trump has added North Korea—with few visitors to the U.S.—and a few government officials from Venezuela doesn't obfuscate the real fact that the administration's order is still a Muslim ban," says Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "President Trump's original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list." But the argument that the travel ban amounted to unconstitutional religious discrimination was already a stretch, especially since critics conceded that the very same order could have been legal if it had been issued by Hillary Clinton. The constitutional case against the order hinged on Trump's loose campaign talk about banning all Muslims from entering the country. But he never actually pursued that policy, and the latest version of his travel ban, framed in religiously neutral terms and based on a purportedly rigorous security review, seems even further removed from it. That does not mean the travel ban makes sense as a matter of policy, as my colleague Shikha Dalmia notes in her latest column for The Week. Since 1975, Cato Institute immigration analyst Alex Nowrasteh found, no Americans have been killed on U.S. soil by terrorists from any of the countries targeted by Trump's first two orders. That remains true of the latest list, he reports. "The national s[...]



Most of the Lessons of 9/11 Went Unlearned

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 16:45:00 -0400

"American citizens cannot delegate the responsibility for strengthening our security, in our airports and on our streets, to bureaucrats. We should undertake a vigorous dialogue on the national cost of pretending we have limitless freedom in our world." You'd find that quote near the end of a very long piece I wrote for the Austin American-Statesman in the aftermath of 9/11, 16 years ago. But newspapers didn't do as much internet archiving then as they do now, so I can't direct you to it. It was part of a cover story for an extra, something newspapers don't do much of any more either. I get the paper version out on the anniversary—not every year—to admire its crystalline prose (I'm keeping in mind you can't look it up) and to take stock of a few prescriptions I was willing to make on deadline, fresh off that harrowing Tuesday. Like many of us watching something truly horrendous happen on our home soil, I got a lot of things wrong. Like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, 9/11 brought out what we like to think is the best in the American spirit. But I think Ben Domenech, the publisher of The Federalist, was right when he wrote a couple of anniversaries ago that "We wept and we forgot." September 11, I wrote, stripped from Americans "the illusion that the Unites States could bestride the world with its economic and political power and somehow not be of the world." This was a new kind of Pearl Harbor, an attack with a potentially transformative power to unite Americans. Vietnam divided and continues to divide a country. After 9/11, I supposed, how could anyone disagree about the enemy and what needed to be done? NATO seemed to prove my point. Although it has long been forgotten, for the first time in the treaty's history NATO invoked Article 5, asserting that an attack on the US was an attack on all member countries. Even Russia pledged to join this war on terrorism. "The opportunity exists for this war to unify the democratic world," I wrote, "in a way that World War II did not." Oh, my. That's a little embarrassing. The US has since lurched from President Bush's war in Iraq to President Obama's unilateral interventionism to President Trump's selective brinksmanship. The Reason archives are bursting with hundreds of dispatches detailing the spectacular failures of American foreign policy, both on their own merits and as an international democratic unifier. In 2015, Matt Welch wrote an article that serves as a chastener for my unjustified optimism. "What would happen in a world where humans, including those in or near power, freely admitted that they don't know how to stop ISIS, can't tell the difference between a Yazidi and and Assyrian, have no convincing explanation for why crime stats are fluctuating this year, and don't know why Billy Beane's shit doesn't work in the playoffs?" he asked. "For one, I think people would be a little less likely to champion or sign up for giant, mass-mobilizing schemes. If we are humble in the face of facts, and mindful of the unforeseen consequences that come with every grand plan, we might be more cautious about bending a sprawling nation's resources and will in one direction or another." At least I didn't lose my mind on the home front. Politicians at the time indignantly insisted that freedom and security are American birthrights. That entitled mentality obscured one of the central concerns of my essay: I was pretty sure Americans would be asked (or told) to pay for security with their freedom. And as James Bovard concluded in the June 2016 issue of Reason, we've been paying ever since, in freedom and in dollars, for something we've never secured. Few publications have been as vigilant as Reason in resisting those exorbitant and unreasonable costs. Which brings me to that opening quote, and to [...]



Antifa Has Backed Its Message With Violence for Decades in Europe

Fri, 08 Sep 2017 17:10:00 -0400

It is a cold and dark January night in the Swedish town of Eskilstuna. Fredrik Nyqvist and a friend are walking home from the founding meeting of the local section of the minuscule Libertarian Party. Suddenly, four men in black clothes and facemasks show up, knocking the two unconscious. One of the offenders later bragged about jumping on Fredrik's head, causing injuries that kept him hospitalized for days. The two libertarians had no way of identifying the perpetrators and assumed it was just a regular criminal incident. They could not know they had just become victims of political terrorism. But they would soon find out. At his home a couple of days later, a third party member received a note from a group claiming responsibility for the attack, and was warned: We hereby give you a chance to terminate all political activities. Failing to do so, you may be the next one to be physically reminded of the consequences of pursuing anti-working class policies. The Antifa, or anti-fascist, movement of Charlottesville, Portland, and Berkeley fame did not come out of nowhere. It is a carbon copy in name, tactics and ideology of groups that have been active in Europe for decades. The website of the Swedish organization is www.antifa.se. Originally an anti-Nazi body in a pre-WWII Germany, organizations resurfaced in various European countries in the 1980s and 1990s, attracting plenty of attention during the anti-globalization protests at the turn of the millennium. Since then, Antifa have systematically used violence as a political tool. Victims are in no way limited to Nazis or the alt-right. Mainstream center-right politicians, leftist mayors and government bureaucrats have been targeted. Apart from the usual assaults, Antifa members have made arson and gas attacks. An original Antifa specialty is rioting, making up the Black Bloc of more mainstream leftist demonstrations, not least in protests against summits of international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. The most recent example was the G20 meeting in July, when large parts of Hamburg, Germany were under siege and private property worth millions of dollars was vandalized. "Welcome to hell" was the message. The American outfit copycats its elder siblings from across the pond, blending in with democratic leftist groups (acting as self-appointed bodyguards), creating Lenin-style united-front coalitions to gain legitimacy (who is not an anti-fascist?) and applying a very wide definition of the term fascist (most people they don't agree with). The extreme-left tradition of misusing terms to their own benefit is not only an Orwellian cliché, but also an historic reality. Remember that the official East German name for the Berlin Wall was "Antifaschistischer Schutzwall" or Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart. In The Washington Post, Dartmouth historian Mark Bray, author of the recent book Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, whitewashes the movement, putting forward the argument that Nazis need to be dealt with at an early-stage. But neither libertarians nor Social Democrats are Nazis. Do the ends really justify the means, especially when the end is undemocratic socialism? In Germany, with its particular history, freedom of speech is more restricted than in the US. Nazism and its symbols are forbidden. And recently, after the Hamburg riots, authorities closed down a website used to coordinate the extreme-left activities. It is in this context that Americans should remind themselves that the First Amendment also protects authoritarian right-wingers and white supremacists. Just as its European counterparts, the US Antifa is a mix of mainly left-anarchists and hard-core Marxists. Not trusting the government to prot[...]



From Pig’s Blood Assassination Fantasies to the Depressingly Real Afghan Surge

Fri, 01 Sep 2017 15:27:00 -0400

On Aug. 17, President Donald Trump, in the wake of the Barcelona terrorist attack, tweeted that we all should "Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!" On Aug. 21, the president laid out his new Afghanistan policy, reversing campaign rhetoric by backing an open-ended increase of around 4,000 U.S. troops. The two statements, separated by four days (or four months in Trump News-Cycle Time) were understandably treated as wholly separate events. But they are not. Trump's allusion to one of his favorite historical fables—an alleged Pershing mass killing which historians unanimously agree there is zero evidence of having ever taken place—advertises a core belief that has always been at tension with the president's expressed skepticism about military intervention. Namely, that a key tactical error separating America from victory against Islamic terrorists is the self-restricting embrace of "political correctness." This formulation, long embraced by the likes of Ralph Peters, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ben Carson, and Rick Santorum, can mean everything from the refusal to utter the phrase radical Islamic terrorism ("She won't even mention the words," Trump clucked at Hillary Clinton during one of their debates), to the broader and vaguer sense that America lacks the "will to win"...to straight-up violations of the Geneva Conventions. "We're fighting a very politically correct war," candidate Trump lamented to Fox & Friends in December 2015. "When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families." In domestic fights against suspected bad guys, there is no equivalent to the countervailing Trumpian foreign policy tendency to eschew nation-building and avoid disastrous wars. This means that taking the proverbial gloves off America's internal law enforcement cops will likely be a one-way ratchet. President Trump, through his campaigning as the "law and order" candidate, to his appointment of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, issuance of succeeding travel bans, attempts to punish "sanctuary cities," fondness for draconian drug prohibition, pardoning of Joe Arpaio, mutual affection for recently resigned Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, re-starting of the controversial 1033 program of transferring military surplus gear to local law enforcement, and much more, has sent the unmistakable message that he will aggressively move around any perceived impediment—including the judiciary branch and the United States Constitution—to give cops and prosecutors more power. He has never exhibited a drop of anxiety about potentially punishing the innocent or otherwise producing unintended consequences. But overseas, there had been reason to hope that Trump's internal conflicts would at least produce some kind of draw. "Afghanistan is, is not going well. Nothing's going well—I guess we've been in Afghanistan almost 17 years," the president-elect said in a joint interview with Bild and The Times of London back in January, sounding not unlike Ron Paul, at least until his very next words: "But you look at all of the places, now in all fairness, we haven't let our people do what they're supposed to do….We haven't let our military win." Why did the bellicose version of the 45th president win out over the intervention-skeptic? Some anti-war voices assert that with the exit of strategist Steve Bannon, the president's foreign policy has been captured by his generals. That may well have merit. But Trump, and the people who supported and voted for him, and even man of his #NeverTrump antagonists, have long indulged in the dangerous delusion that military victory is achievable through the removal of [...]



Trump Sticks to Status Quo With Idiotic Afghanistan Plans

Sun, 27 Aug 2017 08:00:00 -0400

Steve Bannon's Breitbart and others notwithstanding, that was Trump being Trump when he announced he would not be quitting Afghanistan, despite the manifest futility and counterproductivity—that is, idiocy—of America's 16-year war there. He is not a captive of "my generals," bad as they are. He is his own man. Just look at the attitude toward military power he displayed throughout his presidential campaign and young presidency. He boasted of being the most "militaristic" candidate in the large Republican field—and that was saying something. He promised to "bomb the shit" out of ISIS, torture terrorist suspects, and kill their families. He promised to win. So now he says his military's renewed effort in Afghanistan will be directed at killing terrorists and eradicating evil. What else is new? The great disrupter of the establishment turns out to be—surprise, surprise—a man of the establishment. He craves its acceptance and adoration, but he'll settle for the love of his base until the real thing comes along. "If you can't be with the one you love, honey," Stephen Stills wrote, "love the one you're with." The base may not like that he has put his "instincts" about Afghanistan on a shelf, but so be it. Sure, during Barack Obama's second term Trump questioned the wisdom of staying the course in Afghanistan, although in October 2015 he said, "At this point we probably have to [leave US troops there] because that thing will collapse in about two seconds after they leave." The pro-withdrawal statements are easily explained in light of the Trumpian MO. As J.P. Sottile writes, "Trump never had a 'policy' of anti-interventionism. He was simply a troll who tweeted out oppositional statements attacking Obama's foreign policy. If Obama was doing it … he was against it. He knew that no matter what, it was red meat for his future base…. Sorry, but [his turn to intervene] wasn't a Deep State plot…." Does anyone know what Trump's position on Afghanistan was on Sept. 12, 2001? I see nothing on the record, but it is hard to believe he opposed George W. Bush's invasion and occupation back then. It would have been out of character, to say the least, for him to have opposed a military response to 9/11. He probably thought Donald Rumsfeld's war-on-the-cheap strategy was for losers. Moreover, while he dishonestly and repeatedly bragged that he opposed in advance the U.S. military actions Iraq and Libya, I can't recall his bragging about his early opposition to the Afghan war. (I think he mentioned this one time.) In light of his change of heart, Trump's foes in the media, who love to point out flip-flops, would surely be pointing this out if it were true. Beyond this, Trump's position is a tangled mess. He presents what is now his war as a matter of national security: his toy soldiers will be killing "terrorists" who allegedly threaten America, not building a democracy or telling the Afghans how to live. Leave aside the fact that killing alleged terrorists creates even more of them, as many military people recognize. Graeme Wood writes, "On September 11, 2001, al Qaeda commanded an army of 400. A decade and a half later, the Islamic State (or ISIS) had mobilized some 40,000 people to travel to Iraq and Syria." There was no ISIS in Afghanistan in 2001. The national-security state is a perpetual motion machine, which is fine with most politicians, the military bureaucracy, and its contractors. Yet while Trump says Afghanistan is about national security, he also says: America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress. However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check. The government of A[...]