In the United States government’s quest to uncover terrorist threats, fingers get pointed in a lot of directions and things that shouldn’t be that suspicious are turned into full-blown “warning signs.” Here are four groups of people that have either been labeled or suspected of terrorism unjustly:
A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the FBI had been tracking the Occupy movement since before the first tent even went up on the suspicion of terrorism. Throughout the Wall Street protests, the Bureau heavily monitored the assemblage with assistance from some of the nation’s largest banks.
Even after the FBI determined Occupy to be peaceful, the surveillance continued, though it’s difficult to determine why since the majority of the documents released (which was just a fraction of those deemed relevant to begin) were redacted. If people who exercise their First Amendment rights are automatically viewed as likely terrorists, can that really be considered a freedom in this country?
2. Privacy Advocates
A couple of years ago, the FBI and Justice Department put together a list of reasons to suspect a person of terrorism, and at the top of that list was someone who is concerned with his or her privacy. The government’s operating theory is that these people must have something nefarious to hide so they should be monitored accordingly. However, not wanting the government poking around in your business is probably an act of principle nearly 100% of the time, not an indication of a terrorist plot.
Significantly, this list was created before the NSA leaks in 2013. We can only imagine what new non-terrorist “terrorists” Edward Snowden has inspired now that more Americans know just how far their lack of privacy extends. If the government gets to insist on privacy, why can’t its citizens?
3. Post-Pubescent Males Anywhere Near Another Suspected Terrorist… Or Someone Who Thinks Killing Such People Is Wrong
The United States’ carefree approach to drone warfare is disconcerting on a number of levels, but one of the most egregious is its attitude toward bystander casualties. The government has decided that all men in proximity to another suspected terrorist are automatically considered “militants” so that they can conduct a drone strike and not have to count these bystander fatalities as “civilian” deaths.
It may allow drone reports to be less horrifying, but since when is proximity an indication of guilt? It’s one thing to monitor someone based on an association to a terrorism group and quite another to thoughtlessly kill someone because he happens to – often by chance – be too close to the intended target.
Think twice before speaking out about this policy, however. A top U.S. counterterrorism official told the New York Times that people who try to “malign” the drone program often want to “help Al Qaeda succeed.” In other words, if you object to the drone program, you just may be a terrorist yourself!
4. Nelson Mandela and Associates
As the world mourned Mandela’s passing a couple of months ago, we remembered not only the South African president’s legacy, but also the way he was perceived by international leaders. Although U.S. officials ultimately paid tribute to the man, Mandela was considered a terrorist by the U.S. government for the majority of his career – all the way through 2008.
If opposing a corrupt, racist system and trying to create a more just world is what it takes to get you labeled a terrorist, may we all be terrorists in the U.S. government’s eyes.