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Tag: domestic terrorism

When Will Congress Call Domestic Terrorism By Its True Name?

I can’t imagine how Garnell Whitfield Jr. did it, how he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to demand some sort of action from the country’s leaders on gun violence and on the domestic terrorism wrought by white supremacy. But as I was riveted by his testimony, I realized the strength and courage he must have drawn from the memory of the mother he will never stop grieving.

Ruth Whitfield, at 86, was the oldest victim in a shooting at a Buffalo supermarket that left 10 people, all African Americans, dead. It was May 14, not even a month ago. Yet there have been so many shootings since, it sometimes seems as if the rest of the world has forgotten. An 18-year-old white man is accused of carrying out the racist attack, accused of driving hours to hunt and murder as many Black people as possible.

“I would ask every senator to imagine the faces of your mothers as you look at the face of my mother, Mrs. Ruth Whitfield,” Garnell Whitfield testified on Tuesday.

Would they be able to do that?

“Ask yourself,” he said, “is there nothing we can do?”

The track record isn’t great.

I’m not sure what Whitfield was expecting from lawmakers who have a hard time even naming what happened. How, then, could they put themselves in his shoes?

Garnell Whitfield is far ahead of our elected representatives, many of whom want, have always wanted, to distract and downplay, to accuse others of bad intentions, to look everywhere but into the eyes and the broken heart of a man whose life has been forever changed.

Whitfield’s plainspoken speech must have startled those reluctant to call out “domestic terrorism” and “white supremacy” for the dangers they are, despite the warnings from FBI Director Christopher Wray’s March 2021 testimony before the same committee about the connection between the January 6 attack on the Capitol and right-wing “domestic terrorism.”

They would rather, as Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas have done and continue to do, point to acts of violence by those on the left and accuse Democrats of using any effort to counter domestic threats as an excuse to go after political opponents.

This is the same Cruz who walked back his comments earlier this year describing January 6 as a “terrorist attack,” a sign of how dishonestly hearings by the House Select Committee are going to be received in some partisan quarters.

In Buffalo, the intent was clear. Did the shooter want to terrorize more than the people he is charged with gunning down? Were Black people enjoying weekend shopping human beings in the shooter's eyes? Or were they merely players in his racist conspiracy theories about nonwhites in America usurping the white majority’s rightful place at the top? It is a hateful theory that is taking root, even in the rhetoric of some tasked with governing an increasingly diverse country.

“Be very afraid,” was the clear message in Buffalo to all African Americans. That’s the point of any hate crime, to target a group, especially when the hate is spelled out, chapter and verse.

It was the message of those who murdered Black Americans exercising the right to vote not that many years ago, or in the case of World War II veteran Medgar Evers in 1963, murdering an American hero just for daring to register fellow citizens, for insisting on being treated equally in the country he fought for.

Yet, despite a history with more cases of intimidation and violence than can fit in one or 1,000 columns — a history our leaders in Washington could view at the city’s museums open to all, if truth were the goal — Senate Republicans recently blocked a bill that would have the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the FBI establish offices focused on domestic terrorism. This comes as five members of the far-right Proud Boys have been charged with seditious conspiracy for their role on January 6, with televised hearings promising much more.

Just as any gun violence research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was prohibited for more than two long decades because of an amendment to a bill that prevented using federal funds to “advocate or promote gun control,” a 2009 effort by the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration to report on increasingly radicalized and violent right-wing groups was ended before it began.

Republican members of Congress and right-wing media outlets led the charge then and now to reframe any such attention as an attempt to smear police and the military and shift attention away from the perceived more urgent threat of foreign actors. Echoes of that could be heard in GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky’s recent remarks about the 2022 proposal. “It would be the Democrat plan to name our police as white supremacists and neo-Nazis,” he said. Former President Donald Trump, the man who found “fine people” on both sides in Charlottesville, Va., moved the government away from any investigation of white supremacist groups during his time in office.

Of course, there are legitimate reasons to be skeptical. How do you distinguish between hate speech and free speech? I understand the reluctance, and am reluctant myself, of too many investigations, too much surveillance, and how easily that can turn into the monitoring of “certain” groups. Past federal crackdowns to stop hate too often have been subverted to instead persecute and spy on those fighting for justice.

But there is definitely both smoke and fire when so many law enforcement officers and military veterans were caught attacking the very government they were sworn to protect on January 6, when shooters bond online over lies and hate.

America has a white supremacy problem, despite the reluctance of members of Congress to admit it, with support across the political spectrum for “threatening or acting violently against perceived political opponents,” according to a recent poll from the Southern Poverty Law Center that spares no one.

In that context, Garnell Whitfield doesn’t seem to be asking too much when he tells the senators that his mother’s life mattered, and asks: “Is there nothing that you personally are willing to do to stop the cancer of white supremacy and the domestic terrorism it inspires?”

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

As America Mourns Gun Victims, Republicans Block Domestic T​​error Bill

Washington (AFP) - Republicans in the US Senate prevented action Thursday on a bill to address domestic terrorism in the wake of a racist massacre at a grocery store in upstate New York.

Democrats had been expecting defeat but were seeking to use the procedural vote to highlight Republican opposition to tougher gun control measures following a second massacre at a Texas elementary school on Tuesday.

There was no suggestion of any racial motive on the part of the gunman who shot dead 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

But the shock of the bloodshed, less than two weeks after the May 14 murders in Buffalo, New York, has catapulted America's gun violence crisis back to the top of the agenda in Washington.

"The bill is so important, because the mass shooting in Buffalo was an act of domestic terrorism. We need to call it what it is: domestic terrorism," Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said ahead of the vote.

The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act would have created units inside the FBI and Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to combat domestic terror threats, with a focus on white supremacy.

A task force that includes Pentagon officials would also have been launched "to combat white supremacist infiltration of the uniformed services and federal law enforcement."

Schumer had urged Republicans Wednesday to allow the chamber to start debate on the bill, offering to accommodate Republican provisions to "harden" schools in the wake of the Texas murders.

Just ahead of the vote, Schumer said he had wept while studying pictures of the young victims, calling the state's pro-gun governor, Greg Abbott, "an absolute fraud."

Abbott has made efforts to loosen gun restrictions in Texas, including signing into law a measure last year authorizing residents to carry handguns without licenses or training.

The domestic terrorism bill's 207 co-sponsors included three moderate Republicans in the House.

But there was not enough support in the evenly split 100-member Senate to overcome the Republican filibuster -- the 60-vote threshold required to allow debate to go forward.

Republicans say there are already laws on the books targeting white supremacists and other domestic terrorists, and have accused Democrats of politicizing the Buffalo massacre, in which 10 Black people died.

They have also argued that the legislation could be abused to go after political opponents of the party in power.

Democrats are looking for Republicans to support a separate gun control bill, and said Wednesday they would work over the coming days to see if they could find common ground with enough opposition senators to circumvent a filibuster.

"Make no mistake about it, if these negotiations do not bear fruit in a short period of time, the Senate will vote on gun safety legislation," Schumer said

Are We Forever Captives of America’s Forever Wars?

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch

As August ended, American troops completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan, almost 20 years after they first arrived. On the formal date of withdrawal, however, President Biden insisted that “over-the-horizon capabilities” (airpower and Special Operations forces, for example) would remain available for use anytime. “[W]e can strike terrorists and targets without American boots on the ground, very few if needed,” he explained, dispensing immediately with any notion of a true peace.

But beyond expectations of continued violence in Afghanistan, there was an even greater obstacle to officially ending the war there: the fact that it was part of a never-ending, far larger conflict originally called the Global War on Terror (in caps), then the plain-old lower-cased war on terror, and finally — as public opinion here soured on it — America’s “forever wars.”

As we face the future, it’s time to finally focus on ending, formally and in every other way, that disastrous larger war. It’s time to acknowledge in the most concrete ways imaginable that the post-9/11 war on terror, of which the bombing and invasion of Afghanistan was the opening salvo, warrants a final sunset.

True, security experts like to point out that the threat of global Islamist terrorism is still of pressing — and in many areas, increasing — concern. ISIS and al-Qaeda are reportedly again on the rise in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa.

Nonetheless, the place where the war on terror truly needs to end is right here in this country. From the beginning, its scope, as defined in Washington, was arguably limitless and the extralegal institutions it helped create, as well as its numerous departures from the rule of law, would prove disastrous for this country. In other words, it’s time for America to withdraw not just from Afghanistan (or Iraq or Syria or Somalia) but, metaphorically speaking at least, from this country, too. It’s time for the war on terror to truly come to an end.

With that goal in mind, three developments could signal that its time has possibly come, even if no formal declaration of such an end is ever made. In all three areas, there have recently been signs of progress (though, sadly, regress as well).

Repeal Of The 2001 AUMF

First and foremost, Congress needs to repeal its disastrous 2001 Authorization for the Use of Force (AUMF) passed — with Representative Barbara Lee’s single “no” vote — after the attacks of 9/11. Over the last 20 years, it would prove foundational in allowing the U.S. military to be used globally in essentially any way a president wanted.

That AUMF was written without mention of a specific enemy or geographical specificity of any kind when it came to possible theaters of operation and without the slightest reference to what the end of such hostilities might look like. As a result, it bestowed on the president the power to use force when, where, and however he wanted in fighting the war on terror without the need to further consult Congress. Employed initially to root out al-Qaeda and defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan, it has been used over the last two decades to fight in at least 19 countries in the Greater Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Its repeal is almost unimaginably overdue.

In fact, in the early months of the Biden presidency, Congress began to make some efforts to do just that. The goal, in the words of White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, was to “to ensure that the authorizations for the use of military force currently on the books are replaced with a narrow and specific framework that will ensure we can protect Americans from terrorist threats while ending the forever wars.”

The momentum for repealing and replacing that AUMF was soon stalled, however, by the messy, chaotic and dangerous exit from Afghanistan. Those in Congress and elsewhere in Washington opposed to its repeal began to argue vociferously that the very way America’s Afghan campaign had collapsed and the Biden policy of over-the-horizon strikes mandated its continuance.

At the moment, some efforts towards repeal again seem to be gaining momentum, with the focus now on the more modest goal of simply reducing the blanket authority the authorization still allows a president to make war as he pleases, while ensuring that Congress has a say in any future decisions on using force abroad. As Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), an advocate for rethinking presidential war powers generally, has put the matter, “If you’re taking strikes in Somalia, come to Congress and get an authorization for it. If you want to be involved in hostilities in Somalia for the next five years, come and explain why that’s necessary and come and get an explicit authorization.”

One thing is guaranteed, even two decades after the disastrous war on terror began, it will be an uphill battle in Congress to alter or repeal that initial forever AUMF that has endlessly validated our forever wars. But if the end of the war on terror as we’ve known it is ever to occur, it’s an imperative act.

Closing Gitmo

A second essential act to signal the end of the war on terror would, of course, be the closing of that offshore essence of injustice, the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (aka Gitmo) that the Bush administration set up so long ago. That war on terror detention facility on the island of Cuba was opened in January 2002. As it approaches its 20th anniversary, the approximately 780 detainees it once held, under the grimmest of circumstances, have been whittled down to 39.

Closing Guantánamo would remove a central symbol of America’s war-on-terror policies when it came to detention, interrogation, and torture. Today, that facility holds two main groups of detainees — 12 whose cases belong to the military commissions (2 have been convicted and sentenced, 10 await trial) and 27 who, after all these years, are still being held without charge — the truest “forever prisoners” of the war on terror, so labelled by Miami Herald (now New York Times) reporter Carol Rosenberg nearly a decade ago.

Through diplomacy — by promising safety to the detainees and security to the United States should signs of recidivist behavior appear — the Biden administration could arrange the release of the prisoners in that second group to other countries and radically reduce the forever-prison population. They could be transferred abroad, including even Abu Zubaydah, the first prisoner tortured under the CIA’s auspices, a detainee whom the Agency insisted, “should remain incommunicado for the remainder of his life.”

The military commissions responsible for the other group of detainees, including the five charged with the 9/11 attacks, pose a different kind of problem. In the 15 years since the start of those congressionally created commissions, there have been a total of eight convictions, six through guilty pleas, four of them later overturned. Trying such cases, even offshore of the American justice system, has proven remarkably problematic. The prosecutions have been plagued by the fact those defendants were tortured at CIA black sites and that confessions or witness testimony produced under torture is forbidden in the military commissions process.

The inadmissibility of such material, along with numerous examples of the government’s mishandling of evidence, its violations of correct court procedure, and even its spying on the meetings of defense attorneys with their clients, has turned those commissions into a virtual Mobius strip of litigation and so a judicial nightmare. As Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) put it in a recent impassioned plea for Gitmo’s closure, “Military commissions are not the answer… We need to trust our system of justice,” he said. “America’s failures in Guantanamo must not be passed on to another administration or to another Congress.”

As Durbin’s comments and the scheduling of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on closure set for December 7th indicate, some headway has perhaps been made toward that end. Early in his presidency, Joe Biden (mindful certainly of Barack Obama’s unrealized executive order on Day One of his presidency calling for the closure of Gitmo within a year) expressed his intention to shut down that prison by the end of his first term in office. He then commissioned the National Security Council to study just how to do it.

In addition, the Biden administration has more than doubled the number of detainees cleared to be released and transferred to other countries, while the military tribunals for all four pending cases have restarted after a hiatus imposed by Covid-19 restrictions. So, too, the long-delayed sentencing hearing of Pakistani detainee Majid Kahn, who pleaded guilty more than nine years ago, finally took place in October.

So, once again, some progress is being made, but as long as Gitmo remains open, our own homemade version of the war on terror will live on.

Redefining the Threat

Another admittedly grim sign that the post-9/11 war on terror could finally fade away is the pivot of attention in this country to other, far more pressing threats on a planet in danger and in the midst of a desperate and devastating pandemic. Notably, on the 20th anniversary of those attacks, even former President George W. Bush, whose administration launched the war on terror and its ills, acknowledged a shift in the country’s threat matrix: “[W]e have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders, but from violence that gathers within.”

He then made it clear that he wasn’t referring to homegrown jihadists, but to those who, on January 6 so notoriously busted into the Capitol building, threatening the vice president and other politicians of both parties -- as well as other American extremists. “There is,” he asserted, “little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home.”

As the former president’s remarks suggested, even as the war on terror straggles on, in this country the application of the word “terrorism” has decidedly turned elsewhere — namely, to violent domestic extremists who espouse a white nationalist ideology. By the end of January 6, the news media were already beginning to refer to the assault on lawmakers in the Capitol as “terrorism” and the attackers as “terrorists.” In the months since, law enforcement has ramped up its efforts against such white-supremacist terrorists.

As FBI Director Chris Wray testified to Congress in September, “There is no doubt about it, today’s threat is different from what it was 20 years ago… That’s why, over the last year and a half, the FBI has pushed even more resources to our domestic terrorism investigations.” He then added, “Now, 9/11 was 20 years ago. But for us at the FBI, as I know it does for my colleagues here with me, it represents a danger we focus on every day. And make no mistake, the danger is real.” Nonetheless, his remarks suggested that a page was indeed being turned, with global terrorism no longer being the ultimate threat to American national security.

The Director of National Intelligence’s 2021 Annual Threat Analysis noted no less bluntly that other dangers warrant more attention than global terrorism. Her report emphasized the far larger threats posed by climate change, the pandemic, and potential great-power rivalries.

Each of these potential pivots suggest the possible end of a war on terror whose casualties include essential aspects of democracy and on which this country squandered almost inconceivable sums of money while constantly widening the theater for the use of force. It’s time to withdraw the ever-expansive war powers Congress gave the president, end indefinite detention at Gitmo, and acknowledge that a shift in priorities is already occurring right under our noses on an ever more imperiled planet. Perhaps then Americans could turn to short-term and long-term priorities that might truly improve the health and sustainability of this nation.

Copyright 2021 Karen J. Greenberg

Karen J. Greenberg, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law and author of the newly published Subtle Tools: The Dismantling of Democracy from the War on Terror to Donald Trump (Princeton University Press). Julia Tedesco helped with research for this piece.

Domestic Terror Threats Have ‘Exploded’ Since 2020

FBI Director Chris Wray told members of Congress on Tuesday that the number of domestic terror cases in the United States has "exploded" over the past year and a half, confirming many suspicions surrounding the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

On Tuesday, Wray told members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that the FBI's domestic terrorism caseload has "more than doubled" since the spring of 2020, "from about 1,000 to around 2,700 investigations."

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Homeland Security Renews Warning On Right-Wing Terror Threat

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

A national terrorism alert was released on Friday to warn about the possibility of extremists striking as COVID-19 restrictions easing in various states across the country.

According to ABC-13, the latest National Terrorism Advisory System alert released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) serves as an extension of the previous warning of possible civil unrest before the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. The previous alert regarding January 6 was set to expire on Saturday, May 15.

While the alert does not offer details about any isolated threat, it warns of "potential danger from an increasingly complex and volatile mix that includes domestic terrorists inspired by various grievances, racial or ethnic hatred and influences from abroad," per the publication.

Those types of threats are said to have intensified since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic due to "conspiracy theories and deepened anger at the government in some quarters over the shutdown of the economy."

"Violent extremists may seek to exploit the easing of COVID-19-related restrictions across the United States to conduct attacks against a broader range of targets after previous public capacity limits reduced opportunities for lethal attacks," the bulletin said.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas weighed in on the latest alert and the present-day terroristic threats in the United States. "Today's terrorism-related threat landscape is more complex, more dynamic, and more diversified than it was several years ago," Mayorkas said.

In wake of the growing concerns about domestic terrorism, DHS has incorporated a new domestic terrorism monitoring division within its Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Approximately 7.5 percent of the federal agency's grant funding has been designated for monitoring terroristic threats.

Far-Right Terrorist Sought To Infiltrate Federal Law Enforcement Agency

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Ethan Collins had it all figured out. Like a lot of far-right extremists, he fantasized a lot about committing various acts of terrorism—bringing down the power grid, bombing police stations, that sort of thing—and thought about ways to make them happen. The Colorado man decided his best shot was to try to infiltrate a federal law enforcement agency and pull off his crimes from within its ranks.

Fortunately, Collins is a terrible liar. In order to join that unnamed federal agency, he had to take a polygraph test. He failed it. Three times. And his answers to agents the third time around became grounds for a search warrant that produced a store of illegal silencers Collins says he made himself. He's now under arrest.

Collins' story was revealed this week in a Daily Beast article by Pilar Melendez and Seamus Hughes. He is currently being transported to Colorado to face multiple weapons charges—all of them related to the silencers. Investigators reportedly also found a substantial cache of legal weapons in his home, including a high-powered sniper-type rifle and an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

According to the affidavit filed by the FBI this week, Collins—who makes his living as a pilot—had applied to the federal agency in May 2020 for work, and was required to take a polygraph exam. Collins failed three times—likely because of his reactions during the portion of questions devoted to terrorism, because after the third blown exam, on Jan. 11, the polygraph examiner questioned him further about his responses to those portions of the exam.

His answers were hair-raising. Among the many things the Collins confessed:

  • He had carefully plotted out an attack on the Colorado energy grid that would leave the Denver metropolitan area without power for an extended period. He thought the best time to carry out such an attack was in the winter.
  • His plan would have entailed recruiting over 70 people to participate in the scheme, carefully coordinated by him but with minimal contact with each other.
  • The high numbers of recruits eventually sidelined his plan, because he realized he lacked the manpower to pull it off.
  • Among his other potential targets for attack were the Federal Reserve—which he blamed for his economic woes—and Data Centers for the state of Colorado, as well as local police stations.
  • He approved vigorously of the plot by 14 Michigan militiamen to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer that was disrupted last fall by the FBI. Collins told the examiner that "those plotting to kidnap the Governor would be justified in doing so if they arrested her and put her on trial for violating their rights as American citizens."

"Collins considers himself as a patriot, not a terrorist, but at one point during the interview did state he felt he was a terrorist. Collins said he has spent a lot of time thinking about how easy it would be," the affidavit explained.

Based on his replies, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant on Collins' home in Centennial, a Denver suburb, nearly three weeks later. In addition to the silencers and guns, investigators also found ballistic gear.

While the Collins arrest is a reassuring reminder that federal law enforcement's processes intended to catch such would-be infiltrators are working, it also leaves the ominous sense that there likely are men who are better liars capable of eluding detection by polygraph who have gained access to the ranks of federal agencies.

After all, the FBI itself recently warned that law enforcement generally was being targeted for infiltration by right-wing extremists of a variety of ideological stripes, including white supremacists and "Patriot" conspiracists. And very few such agencies outside of the federal government even create an emphasis to screen for such extremists, let alone require polygraph tests to detect them.

House Cancels Thursday Session Due To Warnings Of Possible Capitol Attack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives canceled a session scheduled for Thursday following law enforcement warnings of intelligence pointing to a possible plot by a militia group to breach the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday. (Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Tim Ahmann)

Republicans Conceal Fascist Terror Threat -- By Blaming BLM And Antifa

Republicans rolled out their narrative response to Democrats who were intent to see a law enforcement crackdown on the far-right extremist elements who assaulted the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 during Wednesday's hearing of a House Judiciary subcommittee on "The Rise of Domestic Terrorism in America." It resembled a team version of the "let's throw shit at the wall and see what sticks" strategy, but beneath it all was a thread: Blame everything on Black Lives Matter and left-wing antifascists.

The presence of right-wing pseudo-journalist Andy Ngo—whose entire body of work has portrayed left-wing and anarchist political protests as terrorism—as the Republicans' only witness was emblematic of the approach. Florida Congressman Greg Steube encapsulated the narrative by showing a video of anti-police brutality protests from the summer and then demanding that the Democratic witnesses label it terrorism.

Ngo's testimony was indistinguishable from one of his talks promoting his "wildly dishonest" book, in which he depicts "antifa" as an existential threat to America. He repeatedly described last summer's 120 day-long string of protests against police brutality in Portland—none of which he actually attended, but instead relied on others' reports for his coverage—as "riots," and insisted that this was terrorism and fundamentally no different than the Jan. 6 insurrection in nature:

For more than 120 recurring days, Antifa carried out nightly riots targeting federal, county, and private property. They developed a riot apparatus that included streams of funding for accommodation, travel, riot gear and weapons. This resulted in murder, hundreds of arson attacks, mass injuries, and mass property destruction. To put that into context for those here today, similar actions that occurred at the Capitol Hill riot on January 6, 2021, were repeated every night months on end in the Pacific Northwest.

This remained his thesis when questioned by Republican committee members, notably Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona, one of the key planners of the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" event that became the insurrection. Biggs asked him: "If we don't talk about antifa, is antifa going away?"

Ngo, true to his running thesis, replied that antifa wasn't going away, and actually it's dedicated to the destruction of American democracy and willing to use terrorism to achieve that. He then described multiple instances of the summer protest violence as fitting the legal description of terrorism.

In reality, domestic terrorism is an entirely different phenomenon from protest violence, which has never been included in any terrorism database. Protest violence is usually—as it was last summer—an outcome of interactions between protesters exercising their free speech and police forces using aggressive tactics against them; this summer's protests were acutely so because the police themselves were the primary object of the protests, particularly in Portland.

Terrorism, in contrast, comprises preplanned acts of violence directed at political targets with the intention of striking fear into the larger populace. Both protest violence and terrorism are political in nature, but their core nature is fundamentally very different, particularly when it comes to intent.

Steube, a former Judge Advocate General officer who represents the Sarasota area, either didn't grasp this distinction or was intent on obliterating the committee's ability to do so. After setting out a self-servingly incomplete definition of domestic terrorism, he played a video showing scenes from the summer protests—focusing at one point on a bonfire set by protesters in Portland that in fact was not any kind of arson—and then proceeded to harangue the Democrats' witnesses, which included national security expert Michael German of the Brennan Center for Justice, MSNBC intelligence expert Malcolm Nance, and Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Steube demanded of each of them: "Do you believe that what you saw on that video meets the definition of domestic terrorism?" He also insisted on a yes or no reply.

Nance was blunt: "No, it's civil disobedience. We have codes for that."

Steube pounced on this, pointing to his exculpatory conclusion: "So that's civil disobedience, burning down—creating $80 billion worth of damage across our country, but what occurred here on January 6 was domestic terrorism."

Steube, of course, ignored that the motive for whatever violence occurred this summer was anger at police brutality and a demand for change in American policing, while the motive for the Jan. 6 insurrection was to overturn the outcome the 2020 presidential election by stopping American democratic processes from occurring. In defining terrorism, motivation and intent are the determinative factors. (Also worth noting: Steube outrageously inflated the costs of the summer's civil disturbances, which are estimated in the $1-2 billion range.)




Texas congressman Louie Gohmert—who in fact advocated insurrection and mass protest to overturn the election during a Nov. 14 "Stop the Steal" rally—was now adamant that the people who invaded the Capitol were criminals and should face consequences, but then he tried flinging a different turd at the wall: The whole incursion inside the Capitol was actually the fault of a single antifa/Black Lives Matter activist named John H. Sullivan—a theory that was referenced by other Republicans at the hearing as well.

There's just one problem with this claim: It's been thoroughly debunked. Sullivan, as The Washington Post reported in detail, is a man who initially attempted to organize BLM protests in Utah outside of the existing African American protest community. In short order, a person was shot during one of his events and then Proud Boys began showing up to support his protests. Among BLM activists, he was widely regarded as a duplicitous "double agent." His last organized protest of the summer was a pro-gun rights rally featuring large numbers of far-right militiamen, including Oath Keepers.

The constant comparisons of BLM activists and antifascists to white nationalist terrorists wore down the patience of everyone else involved in the hearing. After all, a 2020 domestic terrorism database found that between 2017 and 2019, right-wing extremists committed a total of 49 acts of terror that resulted in 145 deaths. Antifascists, in contrast, were responsible for exactly one case of domestic terrorism, and the only death that resulted from that case was the perpetrator's. Black Lives Matter activists were connected to zero cases of domestic terrorism.

As Tennessee congressman Steve Cohen noted: "It's like comparing a forest fire to someone with a match."

The most pointed retort came from Missouri congressman Cori Bush, who was appalled by the constant comparisons of white supremacists to BLM protesters. She ripped into her Republican colleagues at the hearing.

"Equating a righteous movement for justice with hateful and racist white nationalism is outright ignorant and disingenuous on your part," she said. "But for white supremacy, in which you benefit, we would not be in the streets demanding to be heard."