Mark Anthony Conditt terrorized Texans, but he's not called a terrorist because of his skin color

Mark Anthony Conditt terrorized Texans, but he's not called a terrorist because of his skin color
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For 19 days in March, 23-year-old Mark Anthony Conditt terrorized Austin, Texas residents before committing suicide. He is not called a terrorist.

As details continue to emerge regarding his motives in the bombings resulting in the deaths of two men and the serious injury of a woman, it appears generous public deference is afforded this white male who grew up an in observant Christian family.

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Self-described in a chilling recording as a “psychopath,” Conditt for many is undeniably a serial bomber who would likely have perpetuated his bombing campaign indefinitely if law enforcement hadn’t closed in on him.

 

Yet if Mark’s name was Muhammad and he was raised in an observant Muslim family, his actions would immediately be linked to domestic Islamic terror.

According to the budget for fiscal year 2018, the FBI spends $3.5 billion — or nearly half its budget — on counterterrorism.

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged in their 2017 Joint Intelligence Bulletin not only that white supremacist groups had carried out more fatal attacks than any other domestic extremist groups since 9/11, but they were also poised to commit more the following year.

Nonetheless, the FBI continues to use the vast majority of its counterterrorism budget to focus disproportionately on the Muslim community and specifically on observant Muslim males between 16 and 35 years old who have expressed discontent with American foreign policy.

As part of the strategy of preemption, prevention and disruption, the U.S. government has taken the extraordinary step of identifying individuals who may be at risk of “radicalization.” This presumption is based primarily on their First Amendment exercise of religion or expression of political beliefs.

The FBI then utilizes its vast network of over 15,000 informants to target these individuals, even in the absence of any actual criminal conduct. Reportedly informants are often under so much pressure to deliver actionable intelligence, or alternatively are paid so handsomely for it, they invent the very terrorism plots that the FBI later foils.

Under the guise of prevention and preemption, the FBI has assumed the role of the pre-cogs in the sci-fi movie, "Minority Report." But this is not fiction. It’s a punitive measure designed to repress and control those who fall outside the state’s sanctioned speech and beliefs.

The Interceptwhich maintains a real-time record of terrorism-based prosecutions, reports that of the 850 people prosecuted for terrorism post 9/11, the vast majority did not commit acts of violence.

“Very few terrorism defendants had the means or opportunity to commit an act of violence. The majority had no direct connection to terrorist organizations. Many were caught up in FBI stings, in which an informant or undercover agent posed as a member of a terrorist organization,” according to the report.

In a 2014 study, Human Rights Watch reported, “According to multiple studies, nearly 50 percent of the more than 500 federal counterterrorism convictions resulted from informant-based cases; almost 30 percent of those cases were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.“

In the midst of a divisive political climate, Muslims have reported record numbers of hate crimes. In August of 2017, CNN reported an average of nine mosques targeted monthly that year.

Last May, Jeremy Christian, a white supremacist was charged with murdering two men in a train in Portland, Ore. after they came to the defense of a young hijab-wearing Muslim girl, who Christian was verbally attacking.

One year ago, two Indian engineers were shot and killed in Kansas by a white supremacist, after being mistakenly labelled as Muslims.

So as a white male suspected bomber remained under the radar, planning and executing murders in Austin, the capital of the second largest state in the United States, fake terrorists are invented, prosecuted, and used to exaggerate the potential of an impending Islamic threat.

As a native Oklahoman, the worst terrorist attack I experienced was feeling the ground shift beneath my feet as a 14-year-old, when Timothy McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 and injuring more than 600.

And yet, the terror that remains ingrained in me from April 19, 1995 stems from the misidentification of the perpetrator of that violence and the corresponding collective blame on Muslims.

When Americans have a higher chance statistically of being crushed to death by their own furniture than being killed in a terrorist attack, we should question why our money is being used to fund a reiteration of the now defunct Counter Intelligence program, that was disbanded by the FBI in 1971.

In 2007 five men were convicted of conspiracy to kill military members at the Fort Dix military base in New Jersey, a decade later continues to be lauded as one of the most successful informant-based FBI stings.

In my research of reconstructing the 16-month sting, consisting of more than 200 lengthy informant-generated wire recordings, hundreds of surveillance logs, over 300 FBI reports recording informant interactions, and more than 10,000 FISA intercepted phone calls, I have discovered  why the prosecution failed to introduce one piece of direct evidence of a conspiracy. That is because none exists.

Certainly national security threats from both domestic and transnational non-state actors, like ISIS, are real and demand the FBI and Department of Homeland Security’s attention.

We cannot ignore that nearly five years ago, the Tsarnaevs, two Muslim brothers, killed three and injured hundreds in the Boston Marathon bombings under the guise of their religious beliefs.

Equally, we cannot ignore statistics. White males are far more likely to commit mass shootings, resulting in high death counts, than any other group.

Uncovering existing threats is essential. But fabricating new ones involving a would-be terrorist who lacks the means, motive or skill set absent intervention is not.

Taxpayer resources are best utilized to protect communities — including minority communities from the rising threat of white supremacy organizations — rather than criminalizing individuals on the basis of their race, religion, and political beliefs.

A government by the people and for the people should serve the people and it is our duty to demand just that.

Huma Yasin is an attorney, co-founder of Facing Abuse in Community Environments, and the author of the forthcoming book, Conspiracy: The True Story of the Fort Dix Five. She is a Public Voices Fellow through The OpEd Project.