Here's a big reason I don't like nor trust the Department of Homeland Security to keep us safe. It is either reluctant or afraid to acknowledge or pursue domestic terrorists. The largest civilian agency in the Federal government (over 200,000 employees, over 200,000 contractors) should have no excuse keeping tabs on domestic terror groups. Yet, it seems to constantly fail, time and again. And the latest press release (!) from Operation Rescue is an example how domestic terror groups can operate in plain sight without any hint of action from the Feds to stop them.
This past week, Operation Rescue launced two new websites as part of a campaign to ban pergancy termination on a state by state basis. Call it a reboot of their origianal objective, since up until this point, thier websites have been relatively low budget. But this new campaign, called Pro Life Nation, features all new branding, a Facebook page (which only has 100 likes so far), and a downloadable, 17 page booklet, explaining their new strategy. But the centerpiece of their new campaign is a separate, database driven website, called AbortionDocs. I try not to link to terrorist websites, since the National Security Administration supposedly keeps an eye on who visits them, right? What's that? The website has not been declared a terrorist website? My point exactly.
AbortionDocs is farily simple enough. It uses a SQL database and a Google Maps API to list the names and locations of stand alone clinics, hospitals, and individual providers who they suspect or know perform terminations. The database also contains the names of hospital executives and board members, in an attempt to intimidate hospital brass over the legitimate and legal medicine being practiced in their institutions. The site invites visitors to submit photographs and home addresses of doctors (presumably so they can be harassed or worse). There's even a link to volunteer one's services as a researcher, editor, or spotter. In addition to photographs and addresses, there is the capacity to upload documents for each entry so that lawsuits, patient complaints, and state prosecutions can be accessed by visitors. As of today, most providers who have photographs attached to their records are not real doctors at all. They are practitioners without board certification, and many have been prosecuted as such, which is good. I want fake doctors out of business. Operation Rescue, of course, wants to see all doctors out of business. And a few of Operation Rescue's followers want them dead.
And that's where terrorism comes into play. This website is not designed to lobby state governments to ban abortion. It is intended to intimidate providers and staff out of the practice of medicine. It is also intended to be used by people outside of Operation Rescue who are willing to break laws in order to stop women from obtaining abortions. Operation Rescue does not explicity say what should be done to clinics and doctors, but history tells us what has been done since the 1980s. There has been vandalism. There have been threats. There has has been harassment (via phone, email, and post). And there have been nine homicides since 1993. Five doctors have been murdered, along with two security contractors, and two clinic staffers. And there will surely be more. This new website is designed to ensure that vandalism, harassment, and violence continue under the guise of protected free speech.
You see, the website does not explicitly call its database a list of "targets" (althought it does label those who support abortion access as an illegal "cartel"). A list of names, addresses, and photographs is merely free information that Operation Rescule hopes others use as they see fit. Operation Rescue has one or more lawyers, so it has covered itself with a "disclaimer" on the site which reads:
This site is meant for informational purposes to aid in the end of abortion through peaceful, legal means. It is in no way meant to encourage or incite violence of any kind against abortion clinics, abortionists, or their staff. We denounce acts of violence against abortion clinics and providers in the strongest terms.
Supposedly that's all a domestic terrorist organization needs to protcect itself from prosecution and civil suits? I wonder why international terrorist groups haven't taken the same route. Oh, right. They can't, because they are internationally recognized as unlawful terror groups.
Operation Rescue has not been classifed as a terror organization by the US Department of Justice. Over 100,000 employees there and they still can't quite link 9 murders and millions in properly damage in 19 years. Not enough evidence I guess. Wanted posters hung in the victims neighborhoods apparently weren't enough to prove that there has been an effort to intimidate and discourage doctors from being abortion providers through acts of violence and threats, both direct and implicit.
Back in the 1990s, there were two ways for anti abortion groups to target providers and staff. Once was to produce flyers and posters locally. The other was to compile information online. This latter method led to the creation of the now infamous (and illegal) "Nuremberg Files" website circa 1997, which listed the names of providers, judges, law enforment officers, and politicians who all practiced or help protect the medical practice of abortion in some way. On that list, eight names are crossed out (the first 8 homicides between 1993 and 1998, beore Tiller's murder in 2009).
The new Pro Life Nation downloadable booklet was written by Troy Newman and Cheryl Sullenger. Ms. Sullenger, you might recall, is the Operation Rescue executive who helped the organization move from California to Kansas, in an effort to to stop Dr. George Tiller from performing third trimester abortions - either through legal or illegal means. She is also a convicted felon. In 1988, she and her husband pleaded guilty to Federal terrorism charges, for conspiring to detonate a gasoline bomb in the Family Planning department of the Alvarado Hospital Medical Center in Sn Diego. She served two years in Federal prison, and then relocated Operation Rescule to Kansas to concentrate on Dr. George Tiller, who was shot and wounded three years later.
Most people heard of her name in the wake of Dr. Diller's murder. She alledgedly assisted Scott Roeder in locataing and stalking Dr. George Tiller, before Roeder assisinated him in the foyer of a Wichita church. Scott Roeder is celebrated by anti abortion extremists as a "Christian Terrorist." That is a correct term for him and men like him. many of whom have been involved in locial militia groups, and in some cases, white supremicist groups. In my opinion, the Southern Poverty Law Center has done a better job in connecting these dots than the DOJ. It is simply outragous.
Why is going after Right Wing terrorist groups a poilticially sensitive issue? The US governemnt has stated for over 30 years that it has zero toloerance for terrorism, but this is clearly not the case. If this nation is serious about stopping all terrorists, then the harassment, assault, attempted murder, or murder of a medical care worker over idology, personal, or religious beleifs should be a Federal crime.
But it also needs to be made clear: Operation Rescue does not supply weapons or explosives to Christian terrorits. Operation Resucue does not coordinate bombings and assiassinations. But it does implicitly encourage them. Sometimes, in the case of Cheryl Sullenger, Operation Rescue is contacted by the terrorists and assassins and provides both moral and tactical support.
We at this blog join other blogs and reproductive rights organizations in condemning Operation Rescue's public database of providers, their photos, and home addresses. And we encourage the Department of Justice to investigate the Pro Life Nation website as a possible violation of the 1994 FACE Act (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances), as well as any other Federal law on the books regarding online harassment and intimidation of healthcare workers. As a step further, we ask the DOJ to investigate the site itself and find out if it is collecting queries from healthcare workers who might be trying to see if their names or clinics are in the database. And we ask that the webside be taken down, as it is effectively a reboot of the late 1990s Nuremberg Files website, which was taken down following a Federal appeals court decision in 2002. (The site continues to be cached and mirrored in violation of that court order that ruled that the site is not procted free speech).
Here's where I should stop and let Rachel Maddow explain the rest of this history, since she explains it better than anyone in American TV news today: