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The War at Home

In Crime, Politics, World on December 17, 2009 at 5:35 am

There’s no doubt that there’s still a war going on — on several fronts. Afghanistan, Iraq. Some of it defensive, some of it aggressive. And a lot of it here in the United States.

On Tuesday, the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment held a hearing that brought that point home.

Jane Harman, the California Representative who chairs the committee, started off rattling off a now familiar list of names: Ahmed Abdullah Minni and Ramy Zamzam, among the five Americans recently arrested in Pakistan for allegedly “attempting jihad against the United States” in Harman’s words; Najibullah Zazi, the hot dog vendor charged with plotting to attack the New York City transit system and, of course, Major Nidal Hasan, responsible for the Fort Hood massacre.

Harman talked about how “since the number of Americans who are either being recruited or are self-recruiting to carry out terrorist attacks here or abroad is growing”… it’s important to know what the “triggers” are.

“We need to be able to intervene to stop individuals in our schools, neighborhoods, religious centers and jails who are persuaded by extreme violent messaging, whether through the internet, friends or mentors to commit violent acts. Before it is too late.”

Harman’s colleague, Representative Bennie Thompson added that “we must be vigilant to ensure that those who bear the brunt of detecting, identifying, disrupting and dismantling efforts by terrorists to strike at us — our citizens, our homeland and our allies — have the adequate resources and tools to do so. We must be vigilant that we do not slip back into a September 10, 2001 mentality regarding the sharing of information.”

While there’s a lot to be said for that, the problem is that in its zeal to maintain that post-September 11th vigilance, the government occasionally has trouble stopping itself from crossing the line between vigilance and violating the law, as demonstrated by documents released by the Department of Homeland Security in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Included were documents that showed DHS collected information about a conference in Georgia (the state) where the speakers were Americans and that they prepared a report on the Nation of Islam.

And then, there was the fact that DHS performed a threat assessment on planned abortion demonstrations in Wisconsin.

DHS Admits Writing Threat Assessment on Abortion Protest

DHS Admits Writing Threat Assessment on Abortion Protest

So, while it’s true that there’s a war going on, there’s also the the fact that it’s very easy to lose sight of what the actual threats are. It’s more important than ever to try and keep things in context, not try to scare people and look at the facts before rushing to judgment.

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