Monday, April 30, 2007

Some are more equal than others

Over at Shot in the Dark (no, I won’t link there), Mitch Berg takes on the events in Austin and domestic terrorism, trying to wrap himself in the flag of feminism to make a point that isn’t entirely clear even after reading the piece three times over. He does challenge Rew at Powerliberal to “ding his premise” but it’s pretty hard to see what the premise is beyond taking “feminists” to task for being angry that they might be exposed to violence when going in for that annual pap smear.

One part of his post, though, is worth examining. He claims that “abortion-related violence has been declining [but] eco-terrorism has been growing.” In support of his claim, Mitch turns to a May 2005 report from CNN that simply regurgitates ATF statistics:
Senior officials from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF) and Explosives told a Senate panel Wednesday of their growing concern over these groups.

Of particular concern are the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF).

John Lewis, the FBI's deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, said animal and environmental rights extremists have claimed credit for more than 1,200 criminal incidents since 1990. The FBI has 150 pending investigations associated with animal rights or eco-terrorist activities, and ATF officials say they have opened 58 investigations in the past six years related to violence attributed to the ELF and ALF.

In the same period violence from groups like the Ku Klux Klan and anti-abortion extremists have declined, Lewis said.

Unfortunately, it’s a claim that has its basis in a government that has pretended that domestic terrorism against some people is worth counting and some is not. Two months before the CNN story, Congressional Quarterly reported that government statistics showed a marked decrease in abortion clinic violence because they’d stopped counting such threats as terrorism:
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not list right-wing domestic terrorists and terrorist groups on a document that appears to be an internal list of threats to the nation’s security.

According to the list — part of a draft planning document obtained by CQ Homeland Security — between now and 2011 DHS expects to contend primarily with adversaries such as al Qaeda and other foreign entities affiliated with the Islamic Jihad movement, as well as domestic radical Islamist groups.

It also lists left-wing domestic groups, such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), as terrorist threats, but it does not mention anti-government groups, white supremacists and other radical right-wing movements, which have staged numerous terrorist attacks that have killed scores of Americans. Recent attacks on cars, businesses and property in Virginia, Oregon and California have been attributed to ELF.

* * *

Individuals affiliated with such groups have also been involved in many smaller terrorist acts, including mailing hundreds of bogus anthrax letters to abortion clinics, and in plots to obtain and use conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons against civilians.

It's easy to dismiss those things that one doesn't think are worthy of counting.

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