from the lock-'em-up dept
We've been pretty damn clear that we think the Trump administration's targeting of people from a few countries by banning them from entering the US is both inhumane and misguided. We were proud to sign on to an amicus brief opposing it and happy that the 9th Circuit agreed -- though the case is far from over. As I've noted repeatedly, to me it's an issue of basic humanity and decency, but some have insisted on making arguments about how certain people are somehow out to get us and we need to protect ourselves from them. I know that, these days, it's considered silly to rely on things like facts for an argument, but it seemed worthwhile to actually explore some facts on this particular topic.
We'll start with a post at Lawfare, by Nora Ellingsen. And we should start out by noting that Techdirt and Lawfare have a pretty long history of... well... not agreeing on much. The site is generally supportive of the intelligence community and supportive of actions taken to protect "national security." We tend to be more skeptical. Ellingsen worked in the FBI's Counterterrorism Division for five years, specifically working on international terrorism investigations inside the US. Since leaving the FBI to go to law school, she's been tracking counterterrorism cases in the US, using DOJ data. And she's gone through that data to try to determine if there's any truth to the idea that people from those countries represent a big ongoing threat. And the answer is that it's just not true. In fact, the real "terrorism" threat in America appears to be... from Americans.:
The Program on Extremism at George Washington University has routinely published statistics indicating that the “vast majority” of individuals charged in the U.S. with offenses related to ISIL are U.S. citizens. When considering all terrorism offenses, that claim holds up—80 of the 97 suspects arrested in the past two years, or more than 82 percent, are American citizens.
Most of those, notably, are not naturalized citizens. Of the U.S. citizens, only six were naturalized. In other words, more than 76 percent of individuals arrested by the FBI over the past two years for terrorism-related offenses were U.S. citizens as a result of having been born in the United States.
The post goes through all of the individuals who were not born in the US and looks at what each was charged with (often just making false statements to the FBI) and how many of them (not many) actually came from the list of banned countries.
And, then, of course, the fact that the FBI these days tends to be arresting a lot more people for plotting violent attacks on Muslims, than Muslims plotting violent attacks on the US:
Since January 2015, the FBI has also arrested more anti-immigrant American citizens plotting violent attacks on Muslims within the U.S. than it has refugees, or former refugees, from any banned country. As we wrote about here, here and here, in October 2016, three white men from Kansas were charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. According to the graphic complaint, the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant men planned to attack a mosque in the area. The men progressed quickly with their plot, amassing firearms and explosives. The targets were people from Somalia, who ironically, would now be covered by Trump’s order.
Similarly, the post notes that there were more US citizens arrested en route to join ISIS in Syria than those arrested trying to plan attacks here.
Since we’re already on the topic, let’s talk about Americans traveling to join ISIL. Over the past two years, the FBI has arrested 34 Americans who aspired to leave, attempted to leave or actually left the United States to join a terrorist group overseas. In other words, although two refugees came into the U.S. and were charged with material support,Seventeen times that number of U.S. citizens tried to leave the U.S. to conduct attacks and fight overseas. More Americans have snuck into Syria to join ISIL, than ISIL members have snuck into the United States. In September 2015, a congressional report indicated that 250 Americans have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight with ISIL. By comparison, as of December 2015, only 71 individuals in the United States had been charged with ISIL-related activities—the vast majority of whom were also U.S. citizens, according to George Washington University.
Meanwhile, over at Slate, William Saletan has pointed out that if the President really wants to ban travellers from regions that import multiple people aiming to harm Americans... it ought to ban travel from North & South Carolina. He goes through story after story of extremists who left North Carolina to conduct terrorist attacks elsewhere. The list is long, but here are just a few:
It began with Eric Rudolph, a Holocaust denier who grew up in the Christian Identity movement. In 1996, Rudolph traveled from North Carolina to Atlanta, where he detonated a bomb at the Olympics, killing one person and injuring more than 100 others. A year later, Rudolph bombed a lesbian bar in Atlanta, wounding five people. In 1998, he bombed a reproductive health clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, killing a security guard and injuring a nurse. The “Army of God,” which hosts Rudolph’s writings, claimed credit for his attacks.
In 2001, Steve Anderson, another Christian Identity follower, was pulled over for a broken tail light on his way home from a white supremacist meeting in North Carolina. He pumped 20 bullets into the officer’s car and fled. Police found weapons, ammunition, and explosives in his truck and home. A year later, he was captured in the western part of the state.
In 2010, Justin Moose, an extremist from Concord, North Carolina, was arrested for plotting to blow up a Planned Parenthood clinic. Moose, who claimed to represent the Army of God, also opposed the construction of a mosque near ground zero in New York. He called himself the “Christian counterpart of Osama Bin Laden.” Eventually, Moose pleaded guilty to disseminating information on how to make and use explosive devices.
Obviously, the Slate piece is tongue-in-cheek in arguing that the Carolinas are the real threat, but the larger point is completely valid. There seems to be no credible evidence for why people from the countries listed in the original executive order should be banned from the US other than outright bigotry. And, somewhat unfortunately, that same kind of ignorant bigotry (which the executive order is only helping to encourage and spread) is resulting in actual violent attacks from Americans who misguidedly think they're stopping "evil."