Adam Schiff Announces Bill To Make Domestic Terrorism A Federal Crime



Quite often after a white man in the United States goes on a rampage of terror, people are left asking why his crimes aren’t prosecuted as an act of terrorism. Under a new bill proposed by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the law would do so when the source of the crime is white supremacist terrorism.

Until now, terrorism has been prosecuted only when certain factors most common to foreign terrorism are present. For instance, hijacking an airplane is considered an act of terrorism. Although the definition in the Oxford Dictionary is “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims,” violent acts to achieve white supremacist political goals, such as during the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, has not fallen under the legal definition.

The Huffington Post reports that:

‘With the exception of about 50 hyperspecific situations — such as destroying an airplane, taking a hostage, or attacking a mass transportation system — most acts of domestic extremism are not prosecuted as terrorism.’

Schiff’s bill would prosecute acts the bill defines as domestic terrorism, such as racially or religiously motivated attacks, the same as an act of terrorism committed by a foreign person. Mass shootings in Jewish synagogues and other crimes committed by white supremacist groups, which FBI Director Christopher Wray said made up nearly half of all arrests terroristic acts in the past year, would be punished similarly to acts like 9/11.

‘Even though Americans today are more likely to be killed by white-supremacists than international terrorism organizations while on American soil, treating these terrorist acts, including racist or anti-Semitic shootings, differently than other acts of terrorism makes the public take it less seriously.’

Some of the tools used in terrorism prevention would legally not be applicable. While the FBI would not be able to compile a list of domestic terrorism groups, prosecuting those groups’ members following a crime would mean harsher punishments and make statistics around terrorism more balanced according to what is the most pressing threat.

‘Unlike the international terrorism regime, Schiff’s domestic terrorism bill would not establish a list of domestic terrorism organizations — a provision that has made it easy for the feds to prosecute individuals with even minimal ties to groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS. Creating a similar list for domestic groups would almost certainly be challenged in court as a violation of the First Amendment.’

Featured image via Flickr by CDEL Family under a Creative Commons license