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posted by janrinok on Tuesday March 11 2014, @12:09PM   Printer-friendly
from the it-was-only-a-matter-of-time dept.

Papas Fritas writes:

"Scott Smith reports at AP that 26-year-old Sergio Patrick Rodriguez has been convicted of pointing a green laser at a Fresno Police Department helicopter and sentenced to spend 14 years in federal prison. 'This is not a game. It is dangerous, and it is a felony,' says US Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. 'Those who aim lasers at aircraft should know that we will seek to convict them, and we will seek to send them to prison. The safety of aircraft and the people in them demands no less.' According to evidence presented at trial, Rodriguez and his girlfriend, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23, used a high-powered green laser pointer 13 times more powerful than common pointers to repeatedly strike the cockpit of Air 1 during a clear summer night in 2012. In imposing the sentence, Judge O'Neill considered not only the severity of the offenses but Rodriguez's criminal history, numerous probation violations, and Bulldog gang affiliation. An expert said that the laser pointer that Rodriguez used was an instrument capable of inflicting serious bodily injury and death due to a high potential for crash caused by visual interference. A jury found Rodriguez guilty of attempting to interfere with safe operation of aircraft and aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. 'Lasing aircraft is not a joke or a casual prank,' says Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the FBI's Sacramento field office. 'Rodriguez's sentence clearly demonstrates the seriousness of his actions and that the FBI will work with its law enforcement partners to locate and arrest those who engage in dangerous, improper use of hand-held lasers that puts us all at risk.'

On February 11, 2014, in 12 cities, the FBI, in collaboration with the Air Line Pilots Association International and the FAA, announced the Laser Threat Awareness campaign, a nationwide effort to alert the public to the threat that aircraft laser illumination poses and the penalties for such activity. The FBI will offer up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of any individual who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft. The program is being rolled out in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Houston and San Antonio, Texas; Los Angeles and Sacramento, California; Philadelphia; Phoenix, Arizona; Cleveland, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; New York; and San Juan, Puerto Rico."

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  • (Score: 1) by Spook brat on Wednesday March 12 2014, @05:52AM

    by Spook brat (775) on Wednesday March 12 2014, @05:52AM (#15048) Journal

    You wrote:Putting criminals in prison is not terrorism. Period. You really need a better dictionary.


    TL;DR version - I didn't mean what you think I meant. I agree that the examples you gave aren't terrorism under the definition I used. Also, dictionaries typically have poor definitions of terrorism.


    Now for the long version: I'm going to defend my definition first, then deal with the issue of criminal sentencing later.

    You have made a few comments criticizing my definition of terrorism; I think if I give a few examples with better explanations that it may be clearer to you what I mean.

    Example: Hijacker threatens airliner pilot with a gun, with instructions to re-direct to a different airport or die. Not terrorism - the action has little influence on people not directly affected. Similarly, carjacking and mugging don't generally rate as terrorism.

    Example: Hijacker holds airliner pilot and passengers as hostages, threatening to kill a hostage every hour until a political prisoner is released. This is terrorism; the pilot and the passengers are personally powerless to release political prisoners. The action (killing hostages) is not intended to influence the hostages (especially not the dead ones), it's intended to influence the jailers of the political prisoners.

    Example: Making a protest purchase you know will cost the store money, punishing them for raising prices. Not terrorism - the store is the immediate victim, and also the party you wish to influence (you want them to reduce prices to what they were before). Your action has no influence on the stores' competitors, nor anyone else I can think of.

    Example: Public statements criticizing Rush Limbaugh. Not terrorism - your influence is limited to the people who hear you, who are the immediate victims of your verbal abuse. If you intend to make Rush change his opinion, make sure you're saying it to his face, but it's still not terrorism: he is both your "victim" (as much as there can be one when you're just talking) and your intended affected audience. I don't think this changes even if you're just flaming on twitter.

    Example: Assassinate Rush Limbaugh, and publish a manifesto saying that unless Ann Coulter and Glen Beck stop broadcasting they're next. Now we're talking terrorism. Similarly, bombing abortion clinics to encourage other doctors to stop performing abortions is also terrorism, for the same reason. The victims are dead, the people you intended to influence are not the immediate victims.

    Example: Mafia boss burns down a store because the owner refused to pay his "protection" money, as an example of what would happen to others. This qualifies; the store owner whose store got torched will no longer be in a position to pay anything. The intended audience is the other store owners who are now afraid that their store will get burned if they don't pay.


    For what it's worth, the CIA uses a similar definition []:
    The term "terrorism" means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.
    I personally don't like that definition, as it's too specific - terrorist may have motivations other than political ones, and there are state-sponsored terrorist that wouldn't fall under this definition.
    And here's the FBI's definition []:
    "International terrorism" means activities [which] . . . Appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping
    I don't care for this one, either, because it suggests that one nation threatening to declare war against another due to a border dispute is an act of international terrorism. Recent U.S. interventions against Syria and Libya would also qualify. Additionally, since this is explicitly a definition of international terrorism it excludes groups like the KKK that clearly engage in domestic terrorism. On the bright side, it at least captures the idea that actions taken against a specific target (e.g. assassination) are influencing a larger audience (policy/conduct of a government).

    I like the definition I gave in my earlier post. It's succinct, doesn't rule out people due to differences in motivation, allows for both state-sponsored and independent terrorist agents, and doesn't result in conventional warfare getting categorized as terrorism. It was also, at one time, used by the U.S. DOD, although I'm struggling to find a reference to cite for you.


    Back to your original complaint: I believe that, depending on how it's done, handing down a prison sentence can be a terrorist act. That's kinda the reason why there's a "cruel and unusual punishment" clause in the U.S constitution. "Let the punishment fit the crime" type of sentences are not terrorism, by any stretch of the imagination. The problem starts when the judge hands down an excessive sentence, perhaps to the first person convicted of violating a new law, in order to "send a message" to others. The "message" should have been delivered when the law was put into force; being the first offender should have no bearing on the judgement. Any overly-harsh judgement passed for reasons other than the defendant's own actions is unjust; doing so with the explicit intent to intimidate other would-be criminals with the threat of random and arbitrary punishments is a form of terrorism.


    Yeah, I think about this way too much. If you feel like joining me in my obsession, there's a good position paper [] published by the Air force's Air Command and Staff College; its author didn't have the authority to establish it as doctrine, but I agree with many points of their philosophy regarding the definition of terrorism.

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