I don’t like the label but Ingraham’s right that this gang of cretins, and I use the word “gang” advisedly, needs to face more aggressive opposition from LEO than it has so far if it’s going to conclude that violent intimidation isn’t in its interest. I’d prefer to see that happen with traditional police work: If DAs in big cities can break up local gangs and the resident mafia without labeling them “terrorist” groups, Trump’s DOJ can do it to Antifa. (Ingraham suggests RICO prosecutions as one line of attack.) Besides, even if the Justice Department wanted to take Ingraham’s advice — and it might, given Jeff Sessions’s interest in labeling MS-13 a “terrorist” group — it may be effectively barred by federal law. Prosecutors are finding that out the hard way in considering whether James Fields can be charged as a terrorist for his attack on Heather Heyer and other protesters in Charlottesville a few weeks ago. Verdict: Eh.
The FBI and Department of Homeland of security broadly track dozens of neo-Nazi, “sovereign” and other white Christian militant groups in the U.S. But while federal officials have numerous legal tools to closely monitor and arrest a U.S. citizen or resident who shows support for a federally designated foreign terrorist organization like ISIS, American hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan have many more legal protections that make their members and sympathizers much harder targets.
The contrast results in part from legal safeguards created to prevent the U.S. government from abusing its power to surveil its own citizens…
Also, the FBI and the Justice Department don’t keep lists of domestic terrorist organizations, because of concerns about civil liberties. Those concerns also prevent federal authorities from engaging in the kind of sweeping surveillance and monitoring of the Ku Klux Klan and anarchist groups that was more accepted in decades past, before reforms were put in place after the Church Committee hearings in 1975.
The peril in labeling Antifa “terrorists” is that Americans tend to think terrorists should have minimal rights, or even no rights. That’s why Trump, for instance, gets wild applause on the trail when he talks about waterboarding ISIS savages not for intelligence purposes but because they deserve it. Jihadi fascists do deserve it, but there are moral and prudential arguments against doing it anyway. Like it or not, most Antifa droogs are U.S. citizens; if you mainstream the idea that they’re “terrorists,” inevitably you also mainstream the idea that their rights can be abridged to an extent that garden-variety criminals’ rights can’t. That’s treacherous terrain.
And needless to say, unless the White House has lost its marbles politically, any designation of Antifa as “terrorist” would also require designating one or more fascist or racist outfits as “terrorist” to balance the scale. Given the Klan’s history, it would be sheer madness to try to sell Americans on the idea that Antifa rises to the level of terrorism but the KKK does not. So the Klan would also be designated and then, in due time, a Democratic administration would look at designating nonviolent white-nationalist outfits as “terrorists.” If “hate speech” is a precursor to violence or, as some leftists would have it, a form of violence itself, why shouldn’t even law-abiding alt-righters be considered terrorists? Why shouldn’t left-wing revolutionaries?
In a sane world, we wouldn’t need to worry about what the feds will do here. Blue-state governors like Jerry Brown would make defanging Antifa a priority, not just as a matter of basic civics but because liberal sympathies for the group risk backfiring spectacularly on Democrats. We don’t live in that world, though.