The definition of terrorist is much like the definition of “criminal” in relation to the political class: they have a motive to enlarge it.
No one described this fact more dramatically than Ayn Rand in her novel, Atlas Shrugged, where she has a government bureaucrat lecture CEO and entrepreneur Hank Reardon:
“Did you really think we want those laws observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them to be broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against… We’re after power and we mean it… There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted and you create a nation of law-breakers… and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Reardon, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”
As beneficial as it is for the government to make people into criminals (which they do all the time!) there are some constitutional provisions that frustrate them from exercising the power they want. The category of “terrorist” or even “suspected terrorist” opens an entire new field of “extra constitutional” power for them to use on such people. So they have every incentive to expand that definition (as well as keep it murky so no one can be sure who gets defined as one).
Thus, the Daily Caller reports:
A copy of the National Counterterroism Center’s Watchlisting Guidance report from March 2013 shows a dramatic expansion in the criteria used to target potential terrorist suspects under the Obama administration — a system which “requires neither ‘concrete facts’ nor ‘irrefutable evidence,’” according to The Intercept.
The first thing to note about the government’s definition is that it is not a secret officially, except that it is. The government doesn’t want you to know how they define a terrorist, and thus mark a person for extensive spying and harassment.
The list is distributed throughout the intelligence community as a uniform standard for designating suspects, and though it is unclassified, its secrecy has been guarded by both the Bush and Obama administrations. Just last month Attorney General Eric Holder brought the criteria under the state secrets privilege in order to prevent them from being disclosed in a legal challenge against an American placed on the list — a designation that can bar suspects from flying and leave them open to prosecution for minor offenses.
In his argument Holder described the list as a “clear roadmap” of the U.S. intelligence terrorist-tracking system, and that revealing the list to the public “could cause significant harm to national security.”
Yes, this is the same Eric Holder who can’t sleep at night because he worries about domestic terrorism… or how he can produce more domestic terrorists.
This has been going on for years and years and I have to assume, since it is “distributed throughout the intelligence community” that our “watchdog media” had no interest in finding out about it. Obviously, it shouldn’t be that hard to get a leaker somewhere in the country.
The second thing to note about the government’s definition, is that it depends on virtually no standards of evidence.
Standards for making the list reportedly fall significantly below average law enforcement criteria necessary for arousing “reasonable suspicion.” Suspected terrorists’ families can be added to the list regardless of a lack of individual suspicion, and any known associates with ”a possible nexus” to terrorism can also be watchlisted.
The White House can additionally authorize a “threat-based expedited upgrade” — a loophole around reasonable suspicion that bumps the threat elevation of entire categories of listed suspects onto no-fly lists, and qualify them for increased scrutiny at border crossings and airports for up to a month based on “fragmentary information.”
What a great country we live in.