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Glenn Greenwald: How Do We Know That the Boston Bombings Were an Act of Terrorism?

Can an act of violence be called 'terrorism' if the motive is unknown?

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AMY GOODMAN: Glenn, I wanted to turn to former  CIA Deputy Director Philip Mudd. On Sunday, he told Fox News Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be charged as a murderer, not a terrorist.

PHILIP MUDD: What I fear, though, is that people too quickly are going to categorize this as terrorism. This looks more to me like Columbine than it does like al-Qaeda: two kids who radicalize between themselves in a closed circle and go out and commit murder. I would charge these guys as murderers, not terrorists.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s your point. That is the former  CIA Deputy Director Philip Mudd. He also said he should be Mirandized and that helps get information, he said.

GLENN GREENWALD: Right. I mean, I think one of—one of the really important things to note about this last week is I think we haven’t really appreciated the whole significance of what this last week will entail for our political culture and sort of how we think about these issues. I happened to be traveling in the U.S. this last week throughout the U.S., and everywhere I went, in hotels and airports and restaurants, people were completely glued to this—the television for the entire week, people who are often politically apathetic. There are very few political events where everyone in the United States pays attention politically, and these are the events that really shape how they think about their relationship to the government, what to expect from the government.

And the images that were sent and the messages that were broadcast over and over and over again were that Muslims were a unique threat, that we ought to be not just tolerant, but grateful, when the U.S. military and police and other authorities fill our streets, shut down our major cities, ride through and go house to house without search warrants, forcing people to come out of their homes and searching their homes—all sorts of application of very extreme sort of police and military tactics, all in the name of Islamic terrorism. And the idea that we should just rush to call this terrorism, that we should essentially assume their guilt, that we should suspend normal legal process, that we should treat it differently, is all very much the core of what has driven the radicalism and extremism of the United States government over the last decade. And I really believe that this incident will sort of normalize behavior that we should all be very wary of, even in the most extreme conditions, let alone an incident that, although horrific and heinous, in terms of the death count, in terms of what it actually is, really ought to be viewed as a crime.

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn, very quickly, are you saying that with suspects on the loose with explosives, the authorities shouldn’t have shut down the city?

GLENN GREENWALD: I’m not going to criticize the police for doing that, because they may have thought or known that certain things that we don’t know. I think it’s a reasonable debate to have. All I’m really saying is, is that we ought to be very wary any time there are extremist measures like this and be very critically scrutinizing of them and not simply unquestioning of them and sort of reverently cheering for what the police did. It’s an extreme act that ought to be accepted only in the most extreme circumstances.

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, we want to thank you very much for being with us, columnist and blogger for  The Guardian, author of  With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. This is  Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

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