25 August 2004

Misuse of Terrorism Statutes

If you don't believe the anti-terrorism statutes are actively being abused, I invite you to visit SW Va Law Blog and read the linked article.

It's about a local government refusing to allow citizens to watch their elected officials in action because they are discussing potential crime and efforts to deter it.
"There are areas of the law where some type of gang activity are terrorism because you are terrorizing the public," Stripling said.
Does anyone out there actually believe the purpose of this statute was to allow government officials to exclude the citizenry while discussing ordinary - or in this case hypothetical - criminal matters?

[addendum] Here are the statutes in question:
§ 2.2-3711. Closed meetings authorized for certain limited purposes.

A. Public bodies may hold closed meetings only for the following purposes:

20. Discussion of plans to protect public safety as it relates to terrorist activity and briefings by staff members, legal counsel, or law-enforcement or emergency service officials concerning actions taken to respond to such activity or a related threat to public safety.

§ 57-48. Definitions.

As used in this chapter, unless the context requires a different meaning:

"Terrorists and terrorist organizations" means any person, organization, group or conspiracy who assists or has assisted terrorist organizations, as provided in 18 U.S.C. § 2339 B or who commits or attempts to commit acts of terrorism, as defined in § 18.2-46.4.

§ 18.2-46.4. Definitions.

As used in this article unless the context requires otherwise or it is otherwise provided:

"Act of terrorism" means an act of violence as defined in clause (i) of subdivision A of § 19.2-297.1 committed with the intent to (i) intimidate the civilian population at large; or (ii) influence the conduct or activities of the government of the United States, a state or locality through intimidation.

§ 19.2-297.1. . . . For the purposes of this section, "act of violence" means (i) any one of the following violations of Chapter 4 (§ 18.2-30 et seq.) of Title 18.2:

a. First and second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter;

b. Mob-related felonies;

c. Any kidnapping or abduction felony;

d. Any malicious felonious assault or malicious bodily wounding;

e. Robbery and carjacking;

f. Criminal sexual assault punishable as a felony; or

g. Arson when the structure burned was occupied or a Class 3 felony violation of § 18.2-79.

(ii) conspiracy to commit any of the violations enumerated in clause (i) of this section; and (iii) violations as a principal in the second degree or accessory before the fact of the provisions enumerated in clause (i) of this section.
So, the booming metropolis of Staunton, Virginia thinks a gang may move into town and start committing murders, robberies, malicious assaults, etc. with the intent of intimidating the civilian population at large. If you really stretch what a gang does you can get there. A criminal gang may very well act to keep people from testifying or cooperating with the police. Of course, it doesn't have the terrorist intent of a proactive attack against a governmental, religious, or social structure with the ultimate goal of destruction or subjugation.


carpundit said...

That appears to be a misapplication of the law, and a damn stupid one at that.

It's that kind of moronic abuse that causes hysterical civil libertarians like the ACLU to decry rational anti-terror laws as gross government overreaching.

Anonymous said...

No, it's moronic anti-terror laws that are written to allow abusive government overreaching that causes rational civil libertarians like the ACLU to decry them.

Ken Lammers said...

Oh, that's nothing. I stood in court shortly after all the anti-terrorism statutes were passed and watched a prosecutor claim that my client was the kind of person that all these statutes were meant to protect us from. My Catholic, Mexican, migrant worker was an evil terrorist because he got caught driving without a license.

Anonymous said...

Hey, your guy entered the country illegally and shows a clear disregard for our laws...just like terrorists do! Avoiding contact with the government, such as not getting a driver's license, is the sort of things terrorists do! Do I have to spell it out?

Sigh. I'm familiar with that kind of thinking. I work for a company that does a lot of applied engineering work for the government. Shortly after 9/11, and without even the slightest coordination from the top, pretty much every single department started thinking about how to spin their services to the anti-terrorism market. I guess prosecutors are doing the same thing.