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For Lieberman, Only Brown Terrorists Matter

computerscreen.thumbnail.jpgJoe Lieberman lets the ideological cat out of his "terror" bag:

The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee today asked Google, the parent company of the popular online video-sharing site, YouTube, to “immediately remove content produced by Islamist terrorist organizations” from YouTube and prevent similar content from reappearing. However, the company immediately refused to comply with his request.

Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) made the request in a letter to Eric Schmidt, the chairman of the board and chief executive officer at Google, in which he said that YouTube “unwittingly, permits Islamist terrorist groups to maintain an active, pervasive and amplified voice despite military setbacks or successful operations by the law enforcement and intelligence communities.”

Lieberman asked the company not only to remove existing content but also identify changes that Google plans to make to YouTube’s community guidelines and explain how it plans to enforce the guidelines. Lieberman said removing such content should be “a straightforward task since so many of the Islamist terrorist organizations brand their material with logos or icons identifying their provenance.”

And what was the driving force behind his request?

Lieberman’s letter comes after his committee released a report, “Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat,” May 8 that said chatrooms, message boards and Web sites can play critical roles in recruitment, indoctrination into violent Islamist theology, linking radicalized individuals and providing information to independent terrorists unaffiliated with organizations. The report also said the government needs to develop a plan to counter terrorist groups’ increasing reliance on the Internet.

The most obvious problem with Lieberman’s request is its clear trampling of basic free-speech rights on the Internet in the pursuit of those evildoers from Al Qaeda. It gives us, as marktheshark at DKos observes, a preview of what Lieberman and his band of anti-terrorists have coming down the pike.

But it’s also a completely misbegotten approach to terrorism that assumes the only terrorists worth worrying about are brown Islamist extremists — while ignoring the fact that over the past decade and a half, the most consistent terrorist threat has come from our own homegrown white variety.

Annually, right-wing extremists within our borders are responsible for a siezeable number of crimes. These range, as Mark Pitcavage of the ADL points out, from "bombings and bombing plots to assassination plots and murders to weapons and explosives violations to hate crimes to massive frauds and scams (amounting in some cases in the hundreds of millions of dollars) to the myriad of lesser crimes." Even if you totaled up several years’ worth of criminal activity related to Islamic extremism, it would fail to come close to the levels produced by our own homegrown terrorists.

And their presence on the Internet is not only widespread, but their use of the Web has in fact been understood to be a serious problem for at least a decade and longer. Strange that Lieberman wasn’t eager back in 1998 to have the Internet censored for far-right content. Maybe it was easier for him to understand the free-speech implications of such actions. But he has a jihad going now.

We already had plenty of reasons to suspect that the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007" working its way through Congress was anything but the attempt at a comprehensive approach to preventing domestic terrorism its sponsors liked to sell it as. Far more likely, in fact, is that it is likely to skew and misdirect the fight against genuine terrorism into an ideological witchhunt for brown-skinned "terrorists" — while ignoring the very real threat on our soil from homegrown white terrorists.

And we knew it was a problem because the man in charge of driving it through the Senate is — you guessed it — Joe Lieberman.

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David Neiwert

David Neiwert

David Neiwert is the managing editor of Firedoglake. He's a freelance journalist based in Seattle and the author/editor of the blog Orcinus. He also is the author of Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community (Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, June 2005), as well as Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America (Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2004), and In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (1999, WSU Press). His reportage for MSNBC.com on domestic terrorism won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000.

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