Immediately after 9/11 our nation was both stunned and angry. We knew we had been sucker-punched and we had two goals at the top of the priority list: hitting back and hitting back hard, and making sure we never suffered such an attack again. As had happened after the attack at Pearl Harbor, we began looking at the deficiencies in our system. One of the most glaring problems we identified was our intelligence structure.
Prior to 9/11 our counter-intelligence apparatus was essentially a “top-down” affair. Intelligence had become a commodity and each federal and state stakeholder felt that relinquishing control of that operational intelligence was tantamount to surrendering valuable inventory to a competitor. We also saw that individual intelligence units typically only saw a sliver of the actual picture. Sometimes valuable information was completely looked over without the knowledge that a bigger operation was afoot.
So we began implementing our new intelligence structure using fusion centers, or nodes throughout the United States, and manning those centers with representatives from local law enforcement, state agencies, and federal agencies. These fusion centers would then make local data available to federal analysts who could see national patterns and… hopefully…prevent another replay of the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.
Commensurate with that was the Patriot Act. This federal legislation was designed to allow eavesdropping and surveillance of those inside the United States as a means of collecting actionable data. Most civil libertarians lost their minds that this was even being talked about, much less enacted into law.
I was not one of them. I took what I considered to be a more pragmatic approach. In my mind, the Constitution was never intended to be a suicide pact. The authors of the Patriot Act were very clear… this legislation was only to be used to prevent foreign terrorists from attacking us. I believed them.
A few years later… and I can remember exactly where I was at the time… I was driving home from the gas station and had the radio on. The top of the hour news headlines came on and there was a story about a large drug bust that had just taken place in the State of Washington. The US Attorney was giving a press conference and she started thanking all of the people who had made the arrest possible. Then she said something that almost caused me to veer off the road… ”If it wasn’t for the Patriot Act, we never would have been able to get the incriminating evidence necessary to bring these drug dealers to justice.”
The Patriot Act was created for a singular purpose: to prevent a foreign terrorist attack on American soil. Now it is being used to abrogate the Fourth Amendment for the purposes of drug prosecutions? What the hell?!?
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)
That brings us to HR 838.
A bill is in play in the House of Representatives labeled as HR 838: Threat Assessment, Prevention, and Safety Act of 2019-2020. The goal of this piece of legislation is to create a government agency (or set of agencies) that essentially begins the process of using profiling to make determinations of who is a threat and who is not. But why not just let the bill speak for itself. Here is the intro language:
“To develop a national strategy to prevent targeted violence through behavioral threat assessment and management, and for other purposes.”
Then it gets “interesting”:
(2) BEHAVIORAL THREAT ASSESSMENT AND MANAGEMENT.—The term “behavioral threat assessment and management” means the systematic and evidence-based process of—
(A) identifying individuals who are exhibiting patterns of concerning behavior that indicate an interest, motive, intention, or capability of carrying out an act of violence;
(B) investigating and gathering information from multiple sources to assess whether an individual described in subparagraph (A) poses a threat, based on articulable facts; and
(C) the subsequent management of such a threat, if necessary.
Yeah… subsection (C) is a little disconcerting.
Now… those of us in the 2A community will be happy to know at the very bottom of the bill is this little directive:
SEC. 9. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.
(a) In General.—There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out sections 7 and 8 $25,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2020 through 2024.
(b) Limitation.—No funds authorized to be appropriated under this section may be used to—
(1) train any individual in the use of a firearm; or
(2) encourage or discourage the otherwise legal ownership and use of firearms.
(c) No Effect On Other Laws.—Nothing in this Act may be construed to preclude or contradict any other provision of law authorizing the provision of firearms or training in the use of firearms.
Whew! Ok… well, since my ox isn’t being gored, I don’t care anymore! After all… anyone the government is investigating or profiling must be a “bad guy” right?
First off, and as I stated in the opening paragraphs to this blog, I have let my guard down before and am ashamed to admit that. When any portion of our civil liberties is compromised, the State grows in power, and that power is to the detriment of the People. While it would appear, at first blush, that “firearms or training in the use of firearms” is an area which the legislation is prohibited from treading upon, the “culture” of firearms, or the very ideal of self-reliance that tends to bind 2A advocates together, is completely open to “identification and management”.
This is also not a “Democratic bill”… there are a number of Republicans who have signed on to this… “thing”.
The very idea of this bill bothers me, as it should to anyone who considers himself to be a Patriot and lover of liberty.