Salon’s Glenn Greenwald made some pretty salient observations about the label “terrorism” in his Friday column:

Terrorism is simultaneously the single most meaningless and most manipulated word in the American political lexicon.  The term now has virtually nothing to do with the act itself and everything to do with the identity of the actor, especially his or her religious identity.  It has really come to mean:  “a Muslim who fights against or even expresses hostility towards the United States, Israel and their allies.”  That’s why all of this confusion and doubt arose yesterday over whether a person who perpetrated a classic act of Terrorism should, in fact, be called a Terrorist:  he’s not a Muslim and isn’t acting on behalf of standard Muslim grievances against the U.S. or Israel, and thus does not fit the “definition.”

Greenwald is, of course, referring to Joseph Stack, a man who flew a plane into a Texas IRS building presumably to protest taxation. Although he left a very clear suicide manifesto behind, few have been willing to label Stack a “terrorist.”

As has been observed before, “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.”

And it certainly seems that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) sees the other side of the coin. King stopped short of explicitly praising Stack’s actions, but one can detect a certain underlying approval — after all, as King claims, he’s been trying to “abolish” the IRS for some 30 years, establishing a national sales tax and (although you’ll never hear this inevitable consequence from King) sending the bill for America’s wars, roads, police, and fire departments to the middle and lower classes.

At any rate, Greenwald seems to have forgotten something in his definition of terrorism. He neglects to mention how quickly the right wing was to pin the “terrorist” label to Bill Ayers, once they had established even the weakest of linkages to then-candidate Barack Obama.


There may well be a case to be made for the use of military tribunals in cases of terrorism. For some, the interests of national security may trump constitutional guarantees of liberty and due process (I’ve heard it suggested before that “liberty isn’t much use if you’re not alive to enjoy it”). Granting this possibility, I present the case that advocates of this process must make in order to become convincing.


This post is going to require a bit of a trip down the old rabbit hole, so bear with me.

Tuesday on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich argued against Mirandizing the Christmas Day Underwear Bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Stewart countered:

STEWART: Didn’t they do the same with Richard Reid, who was the shoe bomber?

GINGRICH: Richard Reid was an American citizen.

Well, that certainly wasn’t true — Reid, who was brought to justice under the Bush administration through the civilian court system, is a citizen of England. Gingrich later corrected himself, via Twitter:

@newtgingrich: On daily show was wrong re: ShoeBomber citizenship, was thinking of Padilla. Treating terrorists like criminals wrong no matter who is Pres.


I figured I ought to expand on the constitutional theory from my last post. It’s a point of some debate, at least within the public at large, and I’m really not sure what case law exists (if it does at all) to expound on the subject (although I’m reasonably sure there has been quite a bit of it).

During her keynote speech to “Tea Party Nation” in Nashville Saturday, former Alaskan governor and media sideshow Sarah Palin elicited cheers when she complained vociferously about the fact that a Nigerian man from Yemen named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — now more commonly-known (and more easily-pronounced) as the Underwear Bomber — has been granted legal representation in criminal proceedings against him stemming from his failed attempt to blow up a passenger jet as it landed in Detroit Christmas day.

Our U.S. constitution,” she called it, pointing out veterans in the audience, and derisively lambasting the president for extending its protections to non-citizens.

I hate to project too much into anything Palin says, because I’m not convinced she does a whole lot of deep thinking about it, but the fact is, her statement expresses a very specific — and foundational — legal theory on what the constitution is and how it works. This theory, roughly, is that by virtue of being a United States citizen, a person is granted specific rights that he or she would otherwise not have. Being a citizen of the United States is like being a member of an exclusive country club — by becoming a member, you gain access to things like the nice golf course, the well-appointed bar, and Miranda warnings. The key element here is that citizenship theoretically confers upon someone something they didn’t have before.


Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that five men held in the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would be moved to the United States in preparation for upcoming criminal trials in New York City. Included in this group is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has claimed to be among the masterminds of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on Manhattan and Washington, D.C.

Predictably, this has led to roars of outrage from the political right (predictably, because the move was made by the Obama Justice Department, and anything done by the Obama Justice Department elicits roars of outrage from the right). Their criticism, when it is intelligible, falls into three categories. First, there is the concern that bringing a “known terrorist” to trial in New York City (or, presumably, anywhere on U.S. soil) will make that location a target for terrorist attack. Second, some conservatives are disgusted by the idea that a foreign national is being accorded the right to civilian trial, when he is actually an “enemy combatant.” Third – and I’ve sat up over beers at a bonfire recently discussing the finer points of this one – many are worried that the trial will be a “circus” that turns into an excoriation and “embarrassment” of the United States’ intelligence community, specifically, the CIA.


“Operation Rescue” founder Randall Terry seems to have gotten a pass for a release he issued a few days ago, which I noticed in my general news inbox when it came out:

WASHINGTON, July 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The following was released today by Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue.

Randall Terry, Founder of Operation Rescue, and other local pro-life advocates will hold a press conference at the National Press Club (529 14th Street NW, Washington, DC) on Tuesday, July 21, at 2:00 P.M. Mr. Randall Terry to discuss what he and other pro-life leaders will and will not do if healthcare passes and includes paying for child-killing, and what convulsions follow.

Health Care, Murder, and the Coming Convulsions

“Let all those in government be warned: They cannot order people to pay for the murder of babies, and betray God Himself, without horrific consequences.”

Randall Terry

Background: It is clear that many elements in the pro-abortion congress and White House want to force Americans to pay for the murder of the unborn in their “healthcare” program.

If that happens, it is tantamount to the government putting a gun to taxpayers’ heads to pay for the brutal murder of an innocent child. This is tyranny and evil of the highest order.

“Please understand: neither I, nor any thinking person wants the convulsions that would inevitably come from such a government policy — the decision to force Americans to pay for the murder of their neighbor.

“Nevertheless, the sheer horror and frustration of such an evil policy will lead some people to absolutely refuse to pay their taxes. And I believe — if my reading of history from America and around the world is correct — that there are others who will be tempted to acts of violence.

“If the government of this country tramples the faith and values of its citizens, history will hold those in power responsible for the violent convulsions that follow.”

While Terry includes some perfunctory throat-clearing about not wanting any “convulsions,” make no mistake: he is making a very clear threat, not just about refusing to pay taxes, but about the kind of violence that we’ve already seen at least one instance of this year. In that case, the murder of Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller, Terry pronounced that Tiller had brought his slaughter on himself.

Let’s run a little mind-experiment. Imagine that you are assigned the task of making a statement designed to show as much support for domestic terrorism as you possibly could, without crossing the line into explicitly calling for murder. What would that statement look like? Would it be very much different from Terry’s thinly-veiled “warning” about coming “convulsions”?

It is time to stop using the term “pro-life” to describe Mr. Terry. He can be accurately described as “anti-abortion,” but he is no advocate for human life.