Monday, January 25, 2021

Political Ideologues Have No First Amendment Rights That Corporations Are Bound To Acknowledge...,

WaPo  |   The First Amendment prevents law enforcement from surveilling or investigating Americans based solely on their political views, even if the views are racist or anti-government. While the law makes it a crime to provide “material support” to specially designated foreign terrorist organizations, there is no parallel for domestic groups that harbor extreme positions. There is not even a particular criminal charge for domestic terrorism, though the concept is defined in federal law.

Some analysts have suggested that the United States could try to pass a law that criminalizes support of certain domestic organizations. Doing so, though, would probably draw legal challenges. And many far-right organizations that have demonstrated a propensity for violence are so loosely organized that they might not meet the criteria for an official designation.

“We really do want to be very careful about criminalizing ideologies, no matter how poisonous and awful,” said David Kris, a former senior Justice Department official and the founder of Culper Partners, a consulting firm. “You’re entitled to have an opinion and entitled to express that opinion no matter how noxious. But when you cross the line from having or expressing an ideology to acting on it in ways that are violent, you’ve crossed the line.”

Neumann said the government should formally study the issue, and focus on public education to help dispel debunked claims — like those promulgated by QAnon, an extremist ideology that the FBI has deemed a domestic terrorism threat — that have enthralled Trump supporters. Charging and publicly describing the evidence against those who participated in the riot will help, Neumann said, but she asserted that Republicans must take responsibility for their role in stoking the attack.

“We can’t even agree to what happened on Jan. 6, and you have people sitting in the Senate, sitting in the House, who helped it happen,” Neumann said. “I would hope if they take the right step, and acknowledge the wrong done, apologize to their constituents for being complicit in the lie, then that creates space for unity. But if you skip the step of accountability, if you skip the step of being introspective and acknowledging your role in the deception, your role in not standing up to Trump before now, then I don’t know that the people in the center and on the left are that interested in fake unity.”

McCord, the former Justice Department official, said she favors passing a law that specifically makes domestic terrorism a crime, which could allow the FBI to open more investigations and prosecutors to push for more significant sentences.

But, McCord noted, the FBI already can initiate investigations of suspected domestic terrorists — including using wiretaps and other strong surveillance measures — whenever they threaten violence or another crime. And many domestic extremists, she said, are doing so in public and online.

“Plotting acts of violence is not First Amendment protected, and once any criminal activity — even if it’s not violence — is discussed, that’s a predicate for investigation,” McCord said.