As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

If You've Done Nothing Wrong, You Have Nothing To Worry About

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security released a report on right-wing extremism, being fueled by the recession and the disturbing increase in activity from white supremacy groups after the election of the nation's first black President. Basically, fear and economic uncertainty breed a certain strain of anger that could morph into violence. And in particular, the targets here are anti-government hate groups, who may recruit and radicalize American citizens, including veterans.

Of course, this has set off conservative media, who claim that the President is directly targeting conservatives with this report. Never mind that the report initiated with the Bush Administration, and was a companion to a similar report on left-wing groups potentially using cyber-attacks (Here's a separate report referring to left-wing groups back in 2001). Somehow conservative media groups take a look at murderous extremists like Timothy McVeigh and see themselves. Here's Dave Neiwert, an authority on the subject:

Because, you know, the report -- which in fact is perfectly accurate in every jot and tittle -- couldn't be more clear. It carefully delineates that the subject of its report is "rightwing extremists," "domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups," "terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks," "white supremacists," and similar very real threats described in similar language.

Nothing about conservatives. The word never appears in the report.

Because, you know, we always thought there was a difference between right-wing extremists and mainstream conservatives too. My new book, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, does explain that the distance between them has in fact shrunk considerably, thanks to the help of people like Malkin [...] The report itself, in fact, is all about accurately identifying very real looming threats. And, while it's obvious Malkin hasn't been paying attention, there in fact is considerable data coming over the transom to indicate that there's a real problem looming with the far right.

Don't forget: Before he'd even been sworn into office, we had skinheads [photo above] being arrested for plotting Obama's assassination.

Those who are slightly smarter than to describe themselves in the same breath as neo-Nazis are trying to shift the issue and claim that the report attacks veterans. Some good examples of this whining are Joe Scarborough, who said the Obama Administration is "more focused on targeting veterans than on protecting our border," and Newt Gingrich, who claimed that the White House "used terrorism to describe worrying about Americans but the word has been banned for describing foreigners." To their credit, some conservatives have maintained their sanity in discussing a report targeting violent extremist groups with a stated goal and long history of committing acts of terrorism.

Now, I think there is a potential danger of government over-reaching in the name of national security when it comes to monitoring citizen groups. I've ALWAYS thought so. That's why the utter hypocrisy coming from the right on this issue is too insane to ignore.

The political faction screeching about the dangers of the DHS is the same one that spent the last eight years vastly expanding the domestic Surveillance State and federal police powers in every area. DHS -- and the still-creepy phrase "homeland security" -- became George Bush's calling card. The Republicans won the 2002 election by demonizing those who opposed its creation. All of the enabling legislation underlying this Surveillance State -- from the Patriot Act to the Military Commissions Act, from the various FISA "reforms" to massive increases in domestic "counter-Terrorism" programs -- are the spawns of the very right-wing movement that today is petrified that this is all being directed at them.

When you cheer on a Surveillance State, you have no grounds to complain when it turns its eyes on you. If you create a massive and wildly empowered domestic surveillance apparatus, it's going to monitor and investigate domestic political activity. That's its nature [...]

I was in Minneapolis and St. Paul during the 2008 GOP Convention and witnessed first-hand massive federal police raids and "preventive" arrests of peaceful, law-abiding protesters and even the violent arrests of journalists, and I don't recall any complaints from Jonah Goldberg or Michelle Malkin. I don't recall Glenn Reynolds or Mark Steyn complaining that the FBI, for virtually the entire Bush administration, was systematically abusing its new National Security Letters authorities under the Patriot Act to collect extremely invasive information, in secret, about Americans who had done nothing wrong. Russ Feingold's efforts to place limits and abuse-preventing safeguards on these Patriot Act powers in 2006 attracted a grand total of 10 votes in the Senate -- none Republican.

Indeed, thanks to the very people who are today petulantly complaining about politically-motivated federal police actions (now that they imagine it's directed at them rather than at people they dislike), the Federal Government today has the power to eavesdrop on telephone calls and read the emails of American citizens without warrants; monitor bank records without court approval; obtain all sorts of invasive personal records, medical and financial, without Subpoenas; and obtain and store a whole host of other personal information about American citizens who have not been accused, let alone convicted, of having done anything wrong.

It was obvious that the same cheerleaders for excessive government surveillance, warrantless wiretapping, and police-state crackdowns would turn on a dime the moment that the federal apparatus transferred to Democrats. And it was obvious they would not fall back on their previous justifications - "If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about," - once their party lost power. So they really have no right to complain at all. If they had any intellectual honesty at all, maybe they'd work with civil liberties groups to dismantle the national security state and put an end to the threat of concentrated power in the hands of the few. But they won't, because they're perpetual victims and rage addicts who just want to feel oppressed by their enemies.

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