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It's Official: You're a Terrorist If the Gov't Says You're a Terrorist

It's Official: You're a Terrorist If the Gov't Says You're a Terrorist

By Dennis Loo (7/24/14)

In an article posted yesterday at The Intercept, "Blacklisted: The Secret Government Rulebook for Labeling You a Terrorist," Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux write:

The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place “entire categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted (Emphasis added).

In other words, contrary to Obama et al's public statements assuring everyone that they are carefully scrutinizing who makes it onto their terrorist watchlists based on reasonable suspicion so that innocent individuals and groups are not unfairly being targeted, the government's until now secret guidelines for designating someone as a suspected terrorist make it clear that they do not need any evidence to place you onto their terrorist list.

Here is how the Watchlist Guidance document puts it

In determining whether a REASONABLE SUSPICION exists, due weight should be given to the specific reasonable inferences that a NOMINATOR is entitled to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience and not on unfounded suspicions or hunches. Although irrefutable evidence or concrete facts are not necessary, to be reasonable, suspicion should be as clear and as fully developed as circumstances permit. (Emphasis added)

This is the hallmark of public order policies where people are subjected to governmental snooping and control not based on what they have actually done but on government’s own decisions as to whether or not you conceivably might do something that they don’t want you to do. In the realm of science fiction this approach to governance was memorialized in Philip K. Dick’s novel The Minority Report where the Bureau of Pre-Crime would arrest people on the basis of what they thought you might do, not what you have done. Franz Kafka famously depicted the nature of such draconian control in The Trial.

As Scahill and Devereaux further explain:

The nomination system appears to lack meaningful checks and balances. Although government officials have repeatedly said there is a rigorous process for making sure no one is unfairly placed in the databases, the guidelines acknowledge that all nominations of “known terrorists” are considered justified unless the National Counterterrorism Center has evidence to the contrary. In a recent court filing, the government disclosed that there were 468,749 KST nominations in 2013, of which only 4,915 were rejected–a rate of about one percent. The rulebook appears to invert the legal principle of due process, defining nominations as “presumptively valid.” (Emphasis added).

In other words, you are guilty until you can prove yourself innocent. Good luck with that!

I have been writing about the momentousness of this shift in governance for several years now in my books and in numerous articles. This latest leaked document proves this, coming as it does from the horse’s own mouth.

From my September 13, 2008 article “Shock and Awe Comes Home to Roost” at Counterpunch:

Of what significance can a person’s right to see the charges leveled against them be when there’s a war on terrorists to be waged? What need do people accused of crimes have to see who has accused them – are they not guilty by virtue of being accused? What end is fulfilled to allow the accused to cross-examine their accusers? Why waste the court’s time with such absurdities? What purpose does it serve to have perfectly good evidence ruled inadmissible, so what if it was extracted employing electric shock and waterboarding? These people are guilty, guilty, guilty! Why just look at them: do they not look guilty? What more evidence do we need? 9/11! 9/11! 9/11! We must wring the truth out of them, whatever it takes, the preservation of freedom demands it! Planting police undercover officers in the ranks of these protestors and provoking them into doing illegal or violent acts, even if those undercover officers have to do it all themselves, is necessary to protect the precious rights we enjoy as Americans. Country First! Anyone who dares tell us that we must not violate Constitutional rights in order to protect Constitutional rights deserves waterboarding! Strap him down! Give me that bucket of water! I’ll show him who’s free!

Some people might conclude from this that the government is merely being paranoid and that is why it is broadening out its targets to include everyone and anyone. This would be a mistaken conclusion. The government knows what it is doing when it treats everyone as a suspect. It is not being paranoid but is redefining what rights people may have because anything that interferes with government and private corporations’ activities truly does threaten their ability to continue to carry out their policies:

[I]t is simply absurd and dramatically counter-productive to carry out anti-terrorist intelligence by collecting all of the world’s electronic communications. This would be like a detective who was trying to solve a murder case by treating the entire world as suspects rather than focusing his or her efforts on those with a motive and those who were in some way connected to the victim. It would be like trying to treat a small tumor by exposing the entire body to continuous radiation therapy. It is simply ludicrous to toss out probable cause and institute improbable cause as the standard of governmental policy. You cannot reasonably connect the dots to identify the threads of pending terrorist plots if you are systematically collecting all the data there is to collect on everyone and everything: to do so means that you are purposely drowning yourself in oceans of irrelevant data. U.S. intelligence is daily collecting more than four times the data contained in the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world. The government isn’t doing these illogical things because they are stupid. They are doing these things because their real purpose is not to detect terrorist incidents. Their real purpose is to control and repress whole populations. That is the only reason why you would collect all there is to know about everyone and everything: because you want to control and manipulate everyone and everything.

Anyone or any agency such as a government that tries to control and manipulate everyone and everything is attempting to do the impossible. That is why the philosophical foundation for public order policies (aka neoliberal policies) is anti-rationalist. Those in charge of this US Empire believe that they can draw upon their seemingly inexhaustible resources of money and power to make real whatever they choose to declare to be real. The leaders of Israel are famous for pursuing a similar path of establishing “facts on the ground” by military action irrespective of world opinion, such as their criminal policies now being carried out in Gaza.

For further in depth discussion of these points, see here.

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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12