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Will the Real Domestic Terrorist Please Stand Up?

08/06/2008 01:17 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Sunday night, on the 11'oclock news, the local news anchor announced that an incident of "domestic terrorism" reportedly took place at the home of a university researcher in Santa Cruz. It turns out that the home of a UC Santa Cruz biologist was firebombed on Saturday, allegedly by animal rights activists.

The hair on the back of my neck stood up as the anchor calmly, if demurely, uttered the phrase "domestic terrorism." Whatever happened to good old fashioned arson? I quickly checked Google for some of the verbiage contained in HR 1362, the Patriot Act, which pertains to "domestic terrorism," an insidious piece of legislation that overwhelming passed Congress in the months immediately following 9/11. Here is a thumbnail of what I came up with:

According to the Patriot Act, the term `domestic terrorism' means activities that--

`(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
`(B) appear to be intended--
`(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
`(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
`(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
`(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.'

Earlier today, some of journalist Ron Suskind's allegations against the Bush White House, in his upcoming book, "The Way of the World," leaked, namely that the White House, in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, ordered the CIA to forge a hand-written note from the Iraqi government's intelligence tsar to Saddam Hussein so as to create the illusion of a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda, thereby implicating Hussein in the World Trade Center bombings.

Suskind writes that "The White House had concocted a fake letter from Habbush to Saddam, backdated to July 1, 2001," thereby committing an impeachable offense through an illicit manipulation of domestic intelligence to -- you guessed it--- "influence the policy of a government by intimidation." (Politico) He also contends that Habbash (Iraqi intelligence) told the White House there were no weapons of mass destruction well before the invasion of Iraq, and was paid millions in hush money.

Forget "gonzo journalism," White House press secretary Tony Fratto responded by calling Suskind's revelations "gutter journalism." Some "gutter" journalist Suskind is---he won the Pulitzer Prize for a feature he wrote for The Wall Street Journal.

Even more egregious than what the author, and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, uncovered was the attempt by federal agents, in New York, to silence him. His research assistant was held by feds where he was given the third degree, and had his notes confiscated in violation of both his First Amendment rights, and the constitutional proscription against illegal search and seizure.

So it is then that his some of Suskind's notes were, in effect, kidnapped, and held hostage by federal agents working in tandem with an administration whose primary goal has been to "intimidate and coerce a civilian population." Sound familiar?

No one is defending firebombing as a tactic, or suggesting that this isn't a crime, but does it not usually fall under the heading of vandalism? Can it be that setting fire to a researcher's house is an act of terrorism, rather than vandalism, has something to do with the fact that there is ideology behind the act?

And, if that is the case, there can be no better reason to charge the authors of the Patriot Act, as well as the forgeries that brought us into a blatantly unjustifiable war, as "domestic terrorists" themselves. After all, is it okay to firebomb villages, maim and kill innocent civilians internationally, and consider these acts of heroism because the ideology passes the smell test in the Oval Office?

There can be little doubt that phrases like "domestic terrorism" arise from the mindset of a president like George W. Bush who once famously said "There ought to be limits to freedom." Thankfully, the founding fathers, in their wisdom, established limits to the presidency.

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