When a bipartisan Congressional committee issues a report on the threat of domestic terrorist violence during an election year, you can be sure that the centrist establishment is worried about the popular backlash against government repression and the threat to civil liberties.
That's nothing new.
Scholar William W. Keller argues that in times of wide-spread social unrest and tensions, some liberals retreat from their oversight function as protectors of civil liberties and allow authoritarian methods to be implemented in order to restore order and defend the state. Right now in Washington, DC, civil liberties activists have built a coalition that spans the political spectrum from left to right. This coalition recently managed to block legislation titled the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act." It was, as detailed here, lousy legislation and deserved to be squashed.
Many voters do not support the war in Iraq and are suspicious of Bush administration demands for even more erosions of civil liberties and Constitutional rights.This scares the bipartisan status quo brigade, and centrist Republicans and Democrats now rally behind the power of the state. Dissidents on the left and right already are all potential suspects in the "War on Terrorism." Who better to pick as the main target for the New Witch Hunt than Muslims in America? Is there a more vulnerable community for a new campaign based on fear?
So now comes a "series of reports by the Majority and Minority staff of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs...on the threat of homegrown terrorism inspired by violent Islamist extremism." The first report, "Violent Islamist Extremism, The Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat," (PDF) was published today, 8 May 2008.
What's really amazing, is that this travesty of a "majority and minority" report is not even really "bipartisan." The committee authors include Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the ranking Republican, and Committee Chairmen Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut independent who has effectively lent himself to the McCain campaign for the last few months.
The ACLU has issued a press release: "ACLU Skeptical of Senate Report on 'Homegrown' Terrorism," and a broad civil liberties coalition signed a letter of protest that was actually issued the day before the report was made public.
Online, there has been almost no comment since the report was issued, hours ago, but it's easy to imagine what the Republican spin doctors and neo-McCarthyites are already whipping up in order to attack Democrats in this election cycle as soft on terrorism. The blogosphere will soon pulsate with their purple prose. This series of reports is a readymade script for the Swift Boating of the Democratic Presidential nominee and a bludgeon with which to push all of the candidates-- Democratic and Republican-- into a corner where they will accept more government repression as the price for being elected.
I will be posting more details about the New Witch Hunt and how it intersects with election 2008 over the next few days. Tomorrow, the story of Debbie Almontaser, hounded out of a job as a school principal by bigoted fanatics.