Will Toughened Fight Against Domestic Terrorism Threaten Civil Liberties?

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A renewed national security push aimed at addressing domestic terrorism has civil liberties groups steeling themselves, concerned that moves to combat far-right extremism will instead redound against communities of color and leftwing activists, reports The Guardian. Meanwhile, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has called for the Capitol rioters to be placed on the no-fly list. President Joe Biden, whose campaign website pledges his administration will “work for a domestic terrorism law,” has ordered a comprehensive assessment of domestic violent extremism. House speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for a new “9/11-type commission.” And the first domestic terrorism legislation to follow the Capitol attack was introduced in the House last week by Illinois Democrat Brad Schneider.

The Democratic party, however, isn’t entirely united on the issue. Ten progressive members of Congress, led by Michigan congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, have sent a letter to congressional leadership expressing opposition to an expansion of national security powers. It cites as examples the McCarthy-era House Un-American Activities Committee, the surveillance of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and the invention of a category in 2017 called “Black Identity Extremism” the FBI claimed posed a risk of domestic terrorism. The proposal that has civil liberties most concerned is a bill first introduced in 2019 by House intelligence chair Adam Schiff, which would give the attorney general the authority to identify certain crimes as acts as terrorism. Given the aggressive policing and prosecutions of last summer’s racial justice protesters – in just one example, an Indigenous man now faces 10 years in prison for his Facebook posts – they say it’s easy to imagine charges against protesters inflated even more with a terrorism designation green-lit by an unsympathetic attorney general like William Barr.

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