by Bob Barr
During and after the Watergate scandal that forced Richard Nixon in 1973 to resign from the presidency, there was widespread and bipartisan agreement that no one, not even the President of the United States, should be permitted to use the powers of the federal government to identify and punish individuals who harbored views and supported policies at odds with the administration’s.
How times have changed.
Half a century later, Democrats in Washington are empowering federal agencies to identify and prosecute individuals and organizations for nothing more than espousing or encouraging political views at odds with the official orthodoxy.
This disturbing trend represents not a failure of any one agency or of certain media outlets; nor is it the result of one or a small number of government officials pushing a personal agenda. It represents a cultural shift away from objective accountability, toward an environment in which a significant swath of American society has come to accept, if not condone, the use of government power to push political agendas unhindered by the law or the Constitution.
We are witnessing the institutionalization of government skullduggery that 50 years ago forced a president from office.
The signs of this seismic shift are everywhere.
Last October, the Attorney General Merrick Garland responded to a letter from the association representing school boards across the country that requested that the Department of Justice treat parents protesting school board actions as “a form of domestic terrorism.” In response to that letter, Garland issued a memorandum that, while not directly labeling protesting parents as “terrorists,” directed that Justice Department prosecutors and FBI investigators would target parents who threaten or use violence against public school officials, citing a “disturbing spike in “harassment” and “intimidation.”
While Garland seemed to walk back the link between parent protesters and terrorists, he pointedly never disavowed or withdrew the noxious memorandum.
The Department of Homeland Security, a now-massive bureaucracy established in the immediate aftermath of the terror attacks of 9/11 to coordinate and focus the country’s fight against terrorist threats to the “homeland,” now views misinformation as one of the primary reasons for a “heightened threat environment” in the country.
The department’s most recent “National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin,” issued earlier this month, coined a cute acronym for these dangerous views: “MDM,” which stands for “mis- dis- and mal-information.” According to the department, MDM could “exacerbate societal friction to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions.”
The “MDM” acronym presents an eerie (and probably not coincidental) resemblance to “WMD,” the acronym for “Weapons of Mass Destruction” that provided the justification (later debunked) for the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The groundwork for Homeland Security’s conclusion that individuals or organizations that espouse or communicate MDM are a possible terrorist threat to the country was foreshadowed in an earlier August 2021 bulletin. That memorandum declared that “RMVEs” (short for “racially- or ethnically-motivated violent extremists”) were an emerging threat because they “may seek to exploit the emergence of COVID-19 variants by viewing the potential re-establishment of public health restrictions across the United States as a rationale to conduct attacks.”
It would be easy to critique these acronym-laden missives as simply the latest examples of government gobbledygook and chuckle at their nonsensical narratives. They are, however, much more, and they reflect a true and serious threat to political freedom in America.
Documents such as these, with the imprimatur of the government of the United States affixed thereto, must be considered in full context of other steps in which this administration is engaged. Actions that include, for example, the Defense Secretary identifying “domestic extremism” as a major threat within our armed forces, the establishment of a new “domestic terrorism unit” within the Department of Justice and the vehemence with which it is persecuting citizens who engaged in non-violent actions in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
The picture thus presented is unmistakable: if you hold or communicate views at odds with those of the Biden administration or of the left generally in today’s America, you could be considered a threat and taken down.
Watergate was kid’s play compared to where we are now in 2022.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.