FBI Disclaims Material Support for Terrorism Prosecutions — for White People

Tara McElvey wrote a piece for the Beeb coming close to espousing a very (dangerous, IMO) British view: that the FBI should criminalize white supremacists’ speech the way they have Islamic terrorists’.

[Frazier Glenn Miller's] writings are a reminder of the virulence in white supremacist views. Earlier this month a married couple, Jerad and Amanda Miller (no relation to Frazier Glenn), shot and killed three people in Nevada.

The couple was steeped in white-supremacist ideology and spoke openly about their views. Police said they placed a swastika on the body of one of the victims.

Some wonder whether authorities were too easy on Frazier Glenn Miller before the killings – and are too soft on the white supremacists in the US.

The piece is most interesting for the quotes from FBI’s spokesperson, which falsely suggests it doesn’t target groups as groups.

Paul Bresson, a spokesman for the FBI, said: “We don’t target groups for who they are. If you want to be a white supremacist – legally there’s nothing wrong with that.

“What we’re concerned about is breaking the law.”

[snip]

As Bresson said: “There’s nothing illegal about being weird.”

Anti-Semitism and extremist ideology seem to play a role in the violence, but Bresson and other officials say that knowing when a white supremacist – or anyone – will explode is beyond their purview.

This is, of course, bullshit. For groups named as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, the FBI does target groups for who they are, under well-worn material support laws. But even without membership in an FTO, the FBI routinely sets up stings to catch young men to precipitate their “explosion” (invariably using inert bombs).

To be fair, the FBI also set up a bunch old white men in the Waffle House plot, in part because they had an informant affirmatively trying to work off his sex crime charges by setting up fellow anti-government activists.

But the FBI’s approach to both groups deserves reconsideration. If the FBI believes it’s not in the job of precipitating personal explosions, it should stop doing so, and instead investigate actual crimes (as Bresson says they do).

In the case of Miller, McElvey misses a key detail. The FBI did not have just his speech. The had — and DOJ had already used — his open support for the MLK bomber, Kevin Harpham, as evidence of criminality. Miller already supported the use of violence against African Americans.

The difference,  of course, is that FBI also called that a “hate crime,” not terrorism. And as a result, treated Miller’s support for terrorism as a First Amendment issue rather than a crime issue.

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2 Responses to FBI Disclaims Material Support for Terrorism Prosecutions — for White People

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz .@AdamSchefter Be honest, by placing the burden on Rice and then STILL finding in his favor, it was a complete indictment of Goodell.
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bmaz RT @DougHaller: Sparky is back on the helmet for today's Territorial Cup. (@FootballASU photo). http://t.co/fCzvZH6ZtG
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bmaz @KellyFlood3 I almost went down for game, but it is really ugly for Devil fans down there. They STILL need to swap QBs if want to win.
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bmaz ASU, the play calling and Taylor Kelly are just terrible. For the love of god, put Becovici in. It is like ASU and Graham enjoy this crap.
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bmaz @kevinjonheller Nope, the decision to give him diversion was not only proper but quite regular.
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bmaz That is a pretty stinging rebuke for Goodell and the NFL. They were just found to be arbitrary and capricious liars, and Ray Rice honest.
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bmaz So arbitrator, Judge Barbara Jones, put the FULL burden on Ray Rice, and still found in his favor over Goodell+NFL http://t.co/MQb0OY8KQ0
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bmaz Ray Rice wins appeal, can sign with any team http://t.co/MQb0OY8KQ0 via @espnnfl
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bmaz @ScottGreenfield She dismantled the bad immigration law here previously, so state caved knowing what she would do.
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bmaz @ScottGreenfield Sue Bolton is a great judge. Was one of my favorite Superior court trial judges before she went to District Court.
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emptywheel @ColMorrisDavis & David Passaro was denied precisely the docs he needed to prove techniques covered under Finding @chucktodd @Krhawkins5
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