The federal government has been increasingly interested in addressing so-called extremism among Americans in recent years, but one recently released FBI document shows that the agency’s definition is exceptionally broad and could potentially describe millions of law-abiding citizens.
According to a report first released publicly by Project Veritas this week, the bureau uses a number of seemingly innocuous factors when forming a definition of “militia violent extremists.”
For starters, the FBI claimed that such domestic terrorists “justify their existence with the Second Amendment,” specifically its provisions for a militia and the right to bear arms. A number of symbols, phrases, and flags are also included as potential warning signs of extremism.
The document, which was apparently intended only for internal use, cites the Betsy Ross-designed early American flag and the Gadsden flag, which depicts a rattlesnake and the phrase “DONT TREAD ON ME,” as additional evidence of possible extremism. Phrases including “I will not comply” are also listed as potential red flags.
Furthermore, the FBI claimed that Ashli Babbitt, the Capitol Hill protester fatally shot by a police officer during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, has become a martyr to militia violent extremists.
Abolish the @FBI.
There. Add that to your list of "extremist" phrases. pic.twitter.com/0K2c44lmfE
— Spike Cohen (@RealSpikeCohen) August 3, 2022
Under President Joe Biden, the federal government has become laser focused on identifying and preventing homegrown terrorism, particularly white nationalism, which he once described as the nation’s “most lethal terrorist threat.”
Many Americans across the political spectrum have voiced concerns about the perceived overreach of the FBI and other federal agencies tasked with carrying out the Biden administration’s directives.
In response to such complaints, one senior administration source said last month that authorities are interested in addressing “violence and threats of violence that threaten public safety and national security, not constitutionally protected advocacy and freedom of expression in support of political views, whatever they may be.”
Such reassurances are not enough to convince activists including Chip Gibbons of Defending Rights and Dissent, who expressed fears that there will be “collateral consequences” as a result of the increased focus on domestic terrorism.
He went on to predict “that these domestic terrorism resources are going to be deployed against people who are engaged not in terrorism but in speech activities.”