In a nutshell, there ain’t no such law.
Courtesy of Times of Israel:
According to the Anti-Defamation League, Robert Bowers carried out what is likely the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in American history when he opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, killing 11 congregants and injuring four police officers.
Bowers’ social media accounts were littered with anti-Jewish hatred and conspiracy theories. He also screamed “All Jews must die” when he confronted law enforcement after committing the massacre.
His shooting spree at the Tree of Life synagogue was an unprecedented act of political anti-Semitic violence on American soil.
But it was not, according to the US government, an act of domestic terrorism.
On Saturday afternoon, federal prosecutors announced that Bowers would face 29 charges, including 11 counts of using a firearm to commit murder and several counts of hate crimes, such as obstructing the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death and obstructing the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer.
Yet the reason he will not face domestic terrorism charges are simple — no such charge actually exists.
When the Patriot Act was passed in 2001 it was, of course, focused on terrorist attacks from foreign-born individuals attached to terrorist organizations.
And while it defines “domestic terrorist” there was no actual law passed for that crime:
The law describes domestic terrorism as an attempt to “intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.”
The Atlantic published an article a couple of days ago that describes why this law is not yet on the books:
Modern terrorism in the United States is largely a homegrown phenomenon; even most of the actors charged with isis-related offenses in the U.S. are American citizens or permanent residents. But in the eyes of the law, the connection to an international terrorist group, even if it’s only rhetorical or ideological, matters a great deal.
For domestic actors without such connections, the law—and the intelligence community’s investigative powers—runs up against First Amendment and other civil-liberties protections. The U.S. government does not formally designate domestic terrorist organizations. So it may not be illegal to give money to a domestic extremist group like Aryan Nations, even if some members commit violence.
“The First Amendment protects the right of people to associate with each other,” said Mary McCord, a former acting assistant attorney general for national security at the Justice Department who is currently a professor at Georgetown Law. “And it certainly protects the right for people to express their points of view, political or otherwise.”
“We don’t worry about that with foreign terrorist organizations because foreign terrorist organizations don’t have First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution,” McCord said.
So essentially an act of terrorism carried out by an American citizen not connected to a known terrorist group is an act of expression protected by their 1st Amendment rights.
Thankfully hate crimes and murder are NOT protected by our Constitution so Cesar Sayoc and Robert Bowers are still going away for the rest of their lives.
However, if they happened to be a brown-skinned immigrant with connections to ISIS it would be for even longer.