The importance of opposing the Patriot Act and similar rights-violating policies rationalized by terrorism can be seen in whom those policies target. When we think of “the terrorists,” images of foreigners hiding in desert caves come to mind. However, the overwhelming majority of people targeted by government surveillance efforts are not only innocent, they’re us.
In the wake of the Patriot Act’s expiration, news drops that the Justice Department will study the social media use of “far right” organizations and individuals, ostensibly to prevent terrorism. The Washington Free Beacon reports:
The Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) awarded Michigan State University $585,719 for the study, which was praised by Eric Holder, the former attorney general, earlier this year.
“There is currently limited knowledge of the role of technology and computer mediated communications (CMCs), such as Facebook and Twitter, in the dissemination of messages that promote extremist agendas and radicalize individuals to violence,” according to the NIJ grant. “The proposed study will address this gap through a series of qualitative and quantitative analyses of posts from various forms of CMC used by members of both the far-right and Islamic extremist movements.”
The study draws more upon right-wing forums than upon the corners of the web inhabited by Islamist extremists.
The groups the study will target remain undisclosed. We can assume, based on government action to date, that domestic groups with unconventional political views will come under scrutiny. Apparently, sovereign citizen groups whose members seek to be left alone present the same threat to national security as ISIS.