Weekly Pulse: Will the Feds Dare to Call It Terrorism?


The fallout from the assassination of women’s healthcare provider Dr. George Tiller continues. As Zack Roth of Talking Points Memo
reports, the Justice Department will investigate whether Tiller’s
shooter, an anti-choice zealot, violated the Freedom of Access to
Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act or any other federal statutes. But little
has been said about investigating the killing as an act of terrorism, a
federal crime. The Oklahoma City bombers were investigated by the FBI
and tried under a 1994 federal anti-terrorism statute, and that was
before the PATRIOT ACT, which presumably makes it even easier to
prosecute terrorism as a federal crime today.

Tiller’s murder was terrorism by any reasonable definition of the
term. It was a politically-motivated act of conspicuous brutality,
designed to suppress abortions through fear. The feds will probably
stop short of investigating Tiller’s murder as a terrorist attack. That
designation would unleash vast federal powers to investigate large
swathes of the radical anti-choice movement and hold accountable anyone
who gives them the slightest aid and comfort. The feds are simply not
prepared for the political fallout that would ensue if, say, Operation Rescue were officially designated as a terrorist organization.

But Tiller’s assassination seems to be working as an intimidation tactic. On Tuesday, Dr. Tiller’s family announced that his clinic, one of only three facilities of its kind in the country, will close its doors forever. Tracy Clark-Flory writes in Salon that the terrorist got exactly what he wanted:

A lesson in the effectiveness of terrorism: Dr. George Tiller’s Kansas clinic is closing permanently,
according to his family’s lawyers. In a statement Tuesday, the family
said: "We are proud of the service and courage shown by our husband and
father and know that women’s healthcare needs have been met because of
his dedication and service." They will continue to honor his memory
"through private charitable activities" – in other words, the type of
activism that is less likely to get a person killed.

Of course, the intimidation won’t stop at a single act. As James Ridgeway notes in Mother Jones, the alleged assassin is inciting further violence from his jail cell:

The fact that the family made clear that it would not be
involved "in any other similar clinic" suggests that they are
traumatized and fearful-in a word, terrorized. And no wonder, since
Roeder, as I detailed yesterday,
has issued warnings from his jail cell of further attacks on abortion
providers-an act which, coming from just about any other comparable
source, would certainly be deemed terrorism, and treated accordingly.

Making explict the link between Tiller’s murder and larger political goals, the Associated Press headline calls the closing a "tainted victory" for the larger anti-choice movement.

Professional anti-choicer Ross Douthat sparked controversy in an op/ed for the New York Times, insinuating that Dr. Tiller might still be alive if pro-choicers didn’t make such a big deal about protecting late-term abortions. Hilzoy of the Washington Monthly
tackles some Douthat’s errors, starting with his misleading implication
that third trimester abortions are unregulated. Without that premise,
Douthat’s argument falls apart, since he’s arguing in effect that
pro-choicers have created a free-for-all in which anyone can get a late
term abortion for any reason.

Amanda Marcotte of RH Reality Check
does a great job exposing the misogyny behind the anti-choice myth of
frivolous late-term abortions. If you think that women are flighty,
irrational, fundamentally unserious beings, you expect them to opt out
of pregnancy on a whim after months of gestation. The imagined problem
of casual late-term abortions reveals what anti-choicers really think
of women, that they are lesser beings who need to be controlled by the
state. Dr. Tiller’s motto was the exact opposite: Trust women.

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  • colleen

    That designation would unleash vast federal powers to investigate large swathes of the radical anti-choice movement and hold accountable anyone who gives them the slightest aid and comfort.

    The feds might not have much of a choice in this. The threats directed at women’s clinics have escalated since Obama was elected and since Tiller’s assassination ‘pro-life’ bloodlust has reached obscene levels. I don’t think they or their right wing militia counterparts are going to stop. And, as you point out, the American Taliban (aided by a federal government which refuses to enforce it’s own laws) just demonstrated that domestic terrorism is a very successful strategy.

    The religious right is in the middle of another Inquisition.

    The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

    Dr Warren Hern, MD

  • invalid-0

    The simplest explanation for this shooting is that a mentally ill individual became fixated on a particular obsession and took it to a violent end. What other evidence is their that pro-life groups are directly responsible? It seems that the only connection between the alleged killer and pro-life groups is that he would call them for info and post on their message boards. Hardly grounds to label the pro-life groups co-conspirators. Other evidence of direct involvement may exist, but I have not seen it (if someone can provide it I would be interested).

  • invalid-0

    A must-see video clip (posted on this website) is Rachel Maddow’s interview of Frank Schaeffer, an architect of the religious right movement back in the 70s and 80s. He said that when con religious leaders were beginning to organize and attract evangelicals around the abortion issue, he knew who the fringe-radicals were when they showed up at anti-choice functions. Schaefer is pro-life, but he is reasonable. He parted company with his father and other powerful religious right leaders like billionaire Pat Robertson back in the 80s.

    Here is the link: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2009/06/10/video-rachel-maddow-and-frank-schaeffer-antichoice-violence

    Organizers, like Jill Stanek, know who the fringe-radicals are within the anti-choice movement, and she walks up right up to the “legal line,” and throws gasoline on the raging fire within the souls of radical anti-choice activists by posting on her website “baby-killers’” addresses and other personal data. Stanek knows full well that domestic terrorist wannabes only need a little nudging to become martyrs for their cause, and she knows who the crazies are. If it is not illegal, then it is absolutely irresponsible and immoral. I loathe to unleash the Patriot Act on anybody because I don’t believe it is Constitutional.

    I must ask, however, why are anti-war and anti-globalist activists herded into “free speech zones” city blocks away from the people against whom they are protesting but anti-choice protestors can be just a few feet away from medical patients going into a clinic? Hmmmm. I think the misogyny that is discussed in the last paragraph of the above blog permeates throughout our society. Why else would the disparity of how much more free speech one group has over the other would not be so stilted to favor one side. Perhaps it is a function of one protesting against government officials and the other protesting against private citizens.

    Now if readers won’t watch Ms. Maddow’s interview because they don’t like her progressive bias, well then, stay in the dark. Just spare the rest of us the justification of why Dr. Tiller was murdered in cold blood. A woman’s right to an abortion is legally protected. Murdering someone whose legal actions anger the murderer is illegal, and in this case is an act of terrorism for the excellently explained reasons above.

    Here’s another question: Why did Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano apologize for the report that came out in April stating that the government should expect a rise in right-wing domestic terrorism? We’ve had two fatalities caused by right-wingers since that report. There have been many, many threats and actions that haven’t resulted in death as well. The murder of a member of the military was caused by a domestic radical Muslim. The likelihood that he was motivated by left-wing, anti-war activism, is slight at best. I don’t know of any anti-war leaders’ posting names and addresses of military personnel and inciting lethal violence against them. Faux News would have been on it ad naseum if that were true. An occasional pie thrown in the face of a military recruiter is juvenile and disrespectful, but it is not threatening. I certainly don’t condone that behavior.

    Homeland Security was perfectly prescient, and competent people within that department were reading the report. If only that had happened before 9/11. Napolitano should retract that apology extended to the poor wittle Cons whose feewings were offended. Also, she must not apologize should the Department of Homeland Security have to warn us about left-wing domestic terrorism. Nobody apologized when peace activists groups, like the Quakers, were infiltrated and spied upon for no justifiable reason during the last administration.

  • truth

    Why? Because it reminds us all that we are one step away from our demise. Any one of us (but especially those that kill babies) can at any time be "put down" by another human being. It’s not practical to then prosecute every other person linked to the murderer. Think about it… If the BTK serial killer is a domestic terrorist, should his wife and the church he worked at be put on trial for domestic terrorism. Try to be realistic. Try to think logically – use your brain. Stop trying to make Tiller’s death about anything other than what it is. If you take life for a living – you’re probably going to piss some people off. Some of those people may not be mentality stable, and they might go crazy. George Tiller killed babies. The Military killed Muslims. Two crazy guys out of 300,000,000 population is very probable – it’s going to happen sometimes. Stay positive, we all wanted to reduce the number of abortions, right?

  • http://reconstitution.us/rcnew invalid-0

    They will not, because to do so would make it a very real possibility that agitators like Glenn Beck, Michael Wiener, Michele Bachmann, and others of their ilk would find themselves in some investigative crosshairs.

    Nope, it’ll take something worse than Oklahoma City before the Federal Government will dare challenge the Rushpublican right wing. I fear, at the rate things are going, that we may well see something that bad.

  • invalid-0

    So what makes some people think they have a superior brain that exercises such higher logic and thinking? It’s so tediously boring. BTW, the BTK serial killer did not kill his victims for political reasons. If the monster had a political agenda, then he would be considered a terrorist. And what about the immoral stand on justifying Dr. Tiller’s murder by implicating that since he did something (legally protected) that “pisses some people off,” then the natural outcome is the doctor’s death? Where are the I’m-more-patriotic-than-you-because-I-observe-the-rule-of-law righties when you need them?

    As far as these terrorists being crazy, if I listened to the inflammatory rhetoric of the anti-choicers, I would be crazy too. But I take personal responsibility and refute most of their garbage. There is something really twisted about refusing to understand the need to save the life/health of women who have later-term abortions. They are equally twisted for refusing to understand a woman’s right to privacy and to decide when to become a mother. I know that basic freedom granted to women is just way beyond “superior thinking.”

    I reiterate that anti-choice leaders know who the crazies are; and, in fact, the leaders are exploiting those crazies by inciting them and not turning them into the authorities when they brag about their less murderous but still illegal activities, e.g. vandalism. This in itself is so political that law enforcement shies away from investigating this phenomenon. And we can tell the truth about law enforcement: As a group, policemen generally don’t support a woman’s right to choose, especially if they live in traditionally red areas. So investigating anti-choice activities isn’t at the top of their priority list.

    True pro-life people understand that “pro-life” means taking care of the people that are already born. In fact if women aren’t feared for being sexual beings, and if both genders have access to factual, age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education—including abstinence, more (but not all) women will choose to carry their pregnancies to term. But that would be “coddling” them and taking away the “incentive” to stay virgins until they marry. That would take understanding their situations. That would take understanding that the vast majority of women don’t make any reproductive decisions casually. Right-wing radicals can’t have that! They don’t really care about zygotes and fetuses any more than they don’t care about hungry children or ill Americans who can’t afford healthcare. They only care about bringing women back under their control.

    Actually I was wrong about the number of right-wing terrorists. There was the right-wing nut that killed three policemen in Pittsburgh because President Obama was “gonna to take his guns away.” There was also the right-wing terrorist who went into the Knoxville, TN UU church and killed two people because they were in a liberal church. Actually, they were substitutes for all the Democrats in Congress according to the terrorist. That unfortunate terrorist action took place before the Homeland Security report came out.

    The disgusting obfuscation effort by the terrorist sympathizers to dismiss the right-wing terrorists as just “random crazies” has an insidious goal: Not only do they reject any responsibility, they imply that nothing can be done except for doctors to stop providing a legal medical procedure, and if they don’t stop, they are asking for the “random crazies” to kill them. That’s just pathological! Nobody can convince me that these sympathizers don’t celebrate the death of abortion providers.

    For those who have a Widows Media Player already downloaded onto their desktops and want to listen to Frank Schaeffer, a true pro-lifer, being interviewed by the very talented Nicole Sandler, queen of progressive internet talk, go to: http://RadioOrNot.com/, and go to the link in the middle column under the June 9 entry to download her program that includes the interview. The link says, Click here for today’s program (runtime 1:52:40). Adjust the cursor that indicates in what part of the broadcast you are to just above and a little past the pause button. Otherwise, enjoy the entire program. Nicole is refreshingly open and honest about her and is not shy about expressing her passion for progressive ideals.

  • invalid-0

    The Feds will not. Just like they will not call international dating Trafficking.

  • invalid-0

    Thanks, AnonyMs., for directing us to the RadioOrNot link. I had heard that broadcast in real time when Nicole Sandler was substituting for Ron Kuby on Air America a few days ago, but I must have missed that interview segment when I had to take a phone call.

    That interview was a little more indepth than Rachel Maddow’s interview of the same guest, Frank Schaeffer, that I watched elsewhere here on RHRealityCheck.

    I wonder if Terry Gross has ever interviewed him on Fresh Air. I’ll have to check her archives. He really holds his old right-wing cohorts accountable. That’s so refeshing.

  • invalid-0

    To the best of our knowledge, Osama bin Laden has never personally killed anyone. All he has done is provide aid, comfort, and encouragement to those who do.

    With all due respect to Wichita Deputy Police Chief Stolz, Scott Roeder no more acted alone than the 9/11 hijackers acted alone. If Osama bin Laden is a terrorist, then the people who incited Scott Roeder are terrorists, and our government should start regarding them as such.

  • invalid-0

    followers to kill. This isn’t much different. I agree, but us agreeing isn’t enough. Contact your representatives, and encourage them to have this crime prosecuted as terrorism, and for them to infilterate many of these big anti-choice organizations like we would any other terrorist organizations. Domestic terrorism is still terrorism. We MUST do more to ensure that choice stays free choice, and that these people are stopped from interfering with women’s legal health care. We cannot let Dr. Tiller’s murder be in vain!! I want to see the report about domestic right wing terrorist organizations that the right wing freaked about and that Janet Napolitiano stupidly apologized for. These people ARE terrorists, and the clinic protesters can surely be called that too. They are trying to inflict terror in those seeking abortions. We MUST stop their ability from doing so.