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In contrast, of the small slice of the FBI budget that goes to counterterrorism, only a tiny portion specifically goes to investigating right-wing extremist organizations.
As investor guru Warren Buffett noted, “If a cop follows you for 500 miles, you’re going to get a ticket.” Credit card fraud, drug use and other minor crimes would serve as justification to arrest and disrupt suspected terrorists and as leverage to convince them to cooperate in investigations of their associates.
Indeed, the government at times does not pursue criminal charges if the offense is deemed minor or resources are needed elsewhere, but this would be far less likely if there was a perceived terrorism link.
If a suspect got a gun or tried to acquire bomb-making materials, law enforcement officials would swoop in.
Imagine a group of legally armed protesters marching through a town chanting slogans extolling the virtues of and the government pleading that it can’t stop them due to the First and Second Amendment. Neither can I—even though it seems similar to a group of legally armed protesters shouting out anti-Semitic and racist slogans.
FBI agents posed as members of a fictional right-wing extremist group and collected information on real like-minded groups by attending conventions and other gatherings as well as reporting on private conversations. It’s hard to feel sorry for these individuals, but the result—that individuals not guilty of any crime found it harder to exercise freedom of assembly and speech—should trouble everyone.
The counterterrorism microscope would also reveal numerous minor but prosecutable offenses not related to terrorism.Intelligence penetration of the right-wing community (and any relevant left-wing groups) would soar. counterterrorism programs single out Muslims unfairly, and expanding the use of informants and surveillance against right-wing communities would expand the numbers under the microscope.The array of tactics would include: monitoring phones and electronic communications of individuals with possible links to terrorists; planting informers in right-wing radical groups; regular police check-ins with leaders of legitimate right-wing causes to encourage them to provide information on potentially violent members; and trying to “turn” current group members to inform on their associates. Because of the greater intelligence coverage—and lower regard for the privacy of the affected citizens—the amount of information on right-wing groups and individuals would skyrocket.For example, Virginia allows its residents to openly carry a firearm.However, the law stipulates that a non-Virginian from a state where open carry is illegal cannot carry a firearm— a seemingly obscure technicality.Social media sites contain a staggering number of anti-Semitic and racist threats, and the FBI would have its hands full.Given the politicized nature of America today, if an administration focused largely on right or left-wing groups, it would be accused of suppressing opposition, not fighting terrorism. In the early 1990s, the FBI conducted a program called PATCON (or Patriot Conspiracy). Berger found that the investigation produced little that could be used for criminal prosecution because it did not meet a high standard of evidence, but it did provoke paranoia in the groups being monitored, with some members being removed as suspected spies.Using such a standard would allow protest, but it would make it harder for at least some participants to protest while armed.Another change would be that government lawyers would use the material support laws to go after domestic terrorists.The public social media accounts of potential radicals would also be scrutinized. Using link-analysis software, metadata and greater information gathering, the government would know not only suspected right-wing terrorists, but also their friends, family members and other parts of their network.The volume of analysis of groups, causes and individuals would also grow exponentially.