Thoughtcrime - Guilty of Intent

by Mike Shea on 17 November 2003

From Sniper Suspect Muhammad Guilty of Murder - AP

The jury deliberated for 6 1/2 hours before convicting Muhammad of two counts of capital murder. One accused him of taking part in multiple murders, the other - the result of a post-Sept. 11 terrorism law - alleged the killings were designed to terrorize the population. Muhammad is the first person tried under the Virginia law.

There is no doubt that Muhammad here was a murderer and should probably be put to death but is the second charge that bothers me.

I feel the same way about Terrorism laws as I do about hate crime. Why one committed an act shouldn't be judged. What thoughts one has in their head are not crimes, only their actions. To judge someone's motivation for a crime is to judge their thoughts, not their actions. Unfortunately, today the word terrorism can get any law passed or add time onto any crime.

The word terrorism is now meaningless. Since 9-11 it has been used for everything from flying a plane into the world trade center to Napster. It is a word that invokes emotion in us but has no real definitive meaning.

Lets take a look at the meaning of the word terrorism:

As defined by the FBI, "the unlawful use of force against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in the furtherance of political or social objectives". This definition includes three elements: (1) Terrorist activities are illegal and involve the use of force. (2) The actions are intended to intimidate or coerce. (3) The actions are committed in support of political or social objectives.

Using the FBI's definition above, is our war against Iraq, a war I agreed with, not a terrorist act? Using the above definition, can the release of the MS Blaster worm be considered terrorism as the polititians say it is? What defines law? What defines force? Children intimidate one another all the time through physical force. Do we not have little terrorists in our very homes?

Here's the Mike Shea Definition of Terrorism:

Terrorism is a word used to invoke emotions in people for the sake of political gain. Terrorism is any act against us that we do not approve of. Terrorism is not any action we commit against another. Terrorism is Doublethink.

The "Patriot" act mentions the word terrorism in it over one hundred and fifty times and in cases like John Allen Muhammad's it seems to be actually used against someone. We may all find our freedoms stripped away from us one by one under the huge umbrella of terrorism.

It may only be a matter of time before the written word is considered an act of terrorism. According to the Patriot Act, any form of intimidation or aggression towards a government official is an act of terrorism. The written word is one of the most powerful forms of aggression we have. This very commentary could be considered intimidation.

No one will defend Muhammad's actions. Like child pornography, it is a crime you cannot even raise a finger in question about. Such atrocities are used to ramrod new laws and new verdicts upon us without anyone putting up any kind of defense. When someone starts blathering about terrorism, start to ask him what he actually means. Poke holes in it. Question it. Question everything.