Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Is the Potential for Domestic Terrorism on the Rise

A new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center is noting a rise in the number of anti-government groups, militias, and "patriot" groups. Many of these groups are fueled by racism and hate, and the SPLC cites a rise in immigration over the past decade and the recent election of President Obama as major factors leading to the increase.

This report is more evidence that we need to focus some attention on the entire spectrum of terrorism - including domestic terrorism. A great number of these groups cited in the report probably don't actually pose a serious security risk; however, some very well may and the attacks they carry out have the potential to be as devastating as 9/11. The most famous incident of domestic terrorism, Oklahoma City, ripped the entire face off of a federal building, killed nearly 200 people, and injured another 700. That attack was carried out by a small group that harbored anti-government views. These groups deserve especially close attention because they are made up of American citizens already in the country. They are not comprised of foreign terrorists who can be tracked when they cross international borders, or immediately draw the attention of security services once they are in the U.S.

I don't predict domestic terrorism will become as pervasive a problem as international terrorism, but the results of domestic terrorism could be just as serious. Hypothetical questions pop to mind with respect to how we would respond to a domestic terrorist attack post 9/11. Specifically, will there be an outcry to refuse domestic terrorists rights usually afforded to those arrested for domestic crimes? It's a question I've asked before. Many, mostly Republicans, derided the Obama administration for giving the Christmas Day Bomber constitutional rights which they claimed ruined the opportunity to gather valuable intelligence from him. Would the reaction to a terrorist with the last name of Jones from Texas be the same as the reaction one with the last name of Abdulmutallab from Nigeria?

In this vein, Spencer Ackerman has a great post on his blog about Lindsay Graham's ridiculous attempt to prevent civilian trials for terrorists and Rahm Emanuel's bizarre alliance with him over the issue.

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