Since we’ve been talking about domestic right wing terrorism of late, I wanted to elaborate on a point I made here. Today, the Department of Justice released a list of all the terrorist-related individuals it found guilty in civilian courts since 9/11. And Scott Roeder, who was found guilty of killing George Tiller on January 29, 2010, is not on that list.
There are two reasons why it might be churlish for me to make that observation. First, the list was released in response to a specific request from the Senate Judiciary Committee in the context of debates over civilian versus military trials for Gitmo detainees, which suggests SJC was interested in a certain kind of terrorist (though, at least in Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich’s response, it seems that the request was not specific to international terrorists). Also, in response to that request, DOJ simply provided a list started during the Bush Administration, and the list was explicitly limited to international terrorists.
The National Security Division’s International Terrorism and Terrorism-Related Statistics Chart tracks convictions resulting from international terrorism investigations conducted since September 11, 2001, including investigations of terrorist acts planned or committed outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States over which Federal criminal jurisdiction exists and those within the United States involving international terrorists and terrorist groups.
In other words, to develop a list of all terrorists–rather than just the terrorists the National Security Division considers terrorists–it would have to cull out the names of Americans who also engaged in terrorism.
So what would it take, then, for DOJ to consider a guy who stalked a doctor for years, who collaborated with a number of other people engaged in intimidation and violence, and ultimately gunned a man down while he was worshiping at church, a terrorist?
If we find evidence that, in addition to harboring pedophiles, Pope Benedict and the American Catholic Bishops have been intimidating women and their doctors, would Scott Roeder be considered a terrorist (recognizing, of course, there is no allegation that the Catholic Church endorses violence of the type Roeder used)? Or would it take a brown man, involved in the plot, for DOJ to consider this terrorism?
The Department of Justice has just sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee answering early questions about how many terrorists have been convicted or plead guilty in civilian courts. Between those convicted of terrorism-related crimes (150) and individuals with ties to international terrorism convicted of other crimes (like obstruction or perjury–the total here is 240), 390 people have been sent to prison using our civilian courts.
As you might recall, there has been some debate over what the “real” number of terrorists convicted in civilian courts is. After the Obama Administration used the same number the Bush Administration had–a number which combines terrorist charges with non-terrorist charges–Republicans squawked.
But as DOJ points out, having other charges available is one of the advantages to the civilian courts:
The second category includes a variety of other statutes (like fraud, firearms offenses, false statements, or obstruction of justice) where the investigation involved an identified link to international terrorism. There have been more than 240 individuals charged in such cases since September 11, 2001. Examples of the international terrorism nexus identified in some of these cases have also been provided for your review.Prosecuting terror-related targets using these latter offenses is often an effective method—and sometimes the only available method—of deterring and disrupting potential terrorist planning and support activities. Indeed, one of the great strengths of the criminal justice system is the broad range of offenses that are available to arrest and convict individuals believed to be linked to terrorism, even if a terrorism offense cannot be established. Of course, an aggressive and wide-ranging terrorism investigation will net individuals with varying degrees of culpability and involvement in terrorist activity, as the NSD chart reflects. Arresting and convicting both major and minor operatives, supporters, and facilitators can have crippling effects on terrorists’ ability to carry out their plans. [my emphasis]
This is a point David Kris made in Congressional testimony last year–there are actually charges you can’t use in a military commission but which you can use in a civilian court (though the Obama Administration appears prepared to press the limits of MCs anyway).
The list of terrorists convicted itself is interesting in its own right. Among other things, it demonstrates the degree to which terrorism is still largely–though not exclusively–targeted at Muslims (though in the first page itself there are individuals tied to the Tamil Tigers and one woman from FARC who was quietly rounded up last year after the Ingrid Betancourt rescue).
Not on this list? Right-wing American terrorists like Scott Roeder.