Unreality Check #8: Go Coogs!

University of Houston men’s basketball has made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the second season in a row. These are great times for Cougars fans like me, who were one of 1,000 or so students who lived on campus and would walk to Hofheinz Pavilion as a study break when there was a game happening.

Guy V. Lewis was still coach for my first season as a Coog, but Hakeem had held his press conference the previous spring (on the very day I was visiting campus from Michigan no less) to declare for the NBA draft and Phi Slamma Jamma had left campus with him. Rickie Winslow was my favorite player that first season. He ran hard, dunked a lot, and led the team in rebounds (aka, he was fun to watch). Alvin Franklin, Greg Anderson, and Reid Gettys were other notables on that squad.

The last few years of Cougar basketball have been a joy to watch. The team plays hard, is a legit eight players deep before even the first small drop off, and when it’s on can either swamp or smother the opposition, often both. DeJon Jarreau has the heart legends are made of and Tramon Mark is a killer we’ve only seen the faintest glimmer from yet. In between is a roster that takes the court as one…Every. Single. Night.

You don’t have to be an old head like me to enjoy the ride though. There’s plenty of room on the bandwagon—and pro sports in town are wasteland—so get on board!

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From the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point —

Mary McCord serves as Executive Director at the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) and Visiting Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center. McCord was the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the U.S. Department of Justice from 2016 to 2017 and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division from 2014 to 2016.

Previously, McCord was an Assistant US Attorney for nearly 20 years at the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Among other positions, she served as a Deputy Chief in the Appellate Division, overseeing and arguing hundreds of cases in the US and District of Columbia Courts of Appeals, and Chief of the Criminal Division, where she oversaw all criminal prosecutions in federal district court.

CTC: In the wake of the storming of the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, what is your assessment of the threat posed by the extreme far-right in the United States?

McCord: If anyone were ever inclined to discount the threat of far-right extremist violence in the United States, the insurrection at the US Capitol certainly should have changed their views. We witnessed our fellow Americans violently assaulting US Capitol Police, forcibly entering and overrunning the Capitol Building, and attempting to kidnap elected officials and prevent the certification of the electoral college vote. They succeeded in delaying the counting for several hours. Although it was shocking to witness because of the sheer number of people willing to use violence to overthrow the government, it was not surprising that extremists led the charge. This is something that has been building up for some time now.

The former president sowed the seeds for this even before the election as he claimed that mail-in ballots were particularly susceptible to fraud and that the only way he could lose were if the election were rigged. He doubled down after the election, refusing to concede and actively spreading disinformation about election fraud, for which there was no credible evidence produced in court after court in states around the country. He bought into the “Stop the Steal” rhetoric and propagated it, adding a veneer of credibility because of his position of power and influence. The false narrative gave the extremists a “cause” that he urged them to fight for, explicitly calling on them to “never concede” and “fight like hell.” We worried before January 6 that Trump’s most extreme supporters would take him literally, and they did.

The lies and rhetoric that spurred extremists to commit the assault on the Capitol—and our democracy—is the kind of rhetoric that often spurs individuals and groups to commit some sort of act of terrorism. We’ve seen disinformation used this way before.

For example, the El Paso shooter, he’s never been traced back to a particular group, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t radicalized by consuming toxic disinformation and violent rhetoric on social media, which came through in his manifesto. The Michigan plot [to kidnap the state’s governor] was a terrorist plot—a plot to influence a policy of government through intimidation or coercion, specifically because of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s pandemic-related policies. That’s terrorism. And that wasn’t done by an individual; that was a group that plotted together over a course of months, acquired weapons, built weapons, created strategies, cased out various places for this crime to take place—all the type of plotting that I’ve seen by terrorists in my career, oftentimes connected to a foreign terrorist organization.

For US-based organizations, there is no lawful structure for designating a domestic terrorist organization. Congress would have to create a new authority to do that. That bumps up against First Amendment rights because people and organizations in the US have the right to express views, peacefully assemble with each other, and petition the government with their grievances. The Supreme Court has never had to rule on whether it would be lawful to designate a domestic organization as a terrorist organization since there has never been such an attempt, and we don’t have the legal authorities to do it. I think it’s not an impossible thing to do, but it would be subject to immediate challenge, First Amendment challenge, and I think it would be extremely controversial in Congress to consider authorities for designating domestic terrorist organizations.

(read the whole interview here)

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