The militants who have taken over an Oregon nature preserve have bristled at suggestions that their armed demonstration is an act of domestic terror — but they apparently don’t understand the legal definition of the term.
One of the militants, Ryan Bundy, spoke Tuesday to blogger Shepard Ambellas of Intellihub about the ongoing occupation of the Malheur National Nature Preserve by self-described militia members.
Bundy, the son of scofflaw Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, complained that the mainstream media had portrayed the militants and his family — who took part in an armed confrontation with federal agents over their unpaid grazing fees on public lands — as terrorists.
“They labeled us terrorists several years ago, so that’s not new,” Bundy said. “You got to look at the definition of terror.”
Bundy asked the blogger to define terror, and Ambellas said he guessed it meant “something that scares someone.”
“Would you say that terror is extreme fear?” Bundy asked.
“I would say the word has a heightened sense of fear,” Ambellas said.
“All right, so extra fear,” Bundy said. “All right, so a terrorist is one that uses extreme fear to control a situation, to control a political situation or any particular situation — so that would define terrorism.”
Bundy, who was arrested last year following a courthouse brawl in Nevada, said terrorists used bombs and bomb threats to create “extreme terror to try to control or gain position or something,” citing the Boston Marathon bombing as an example.
“Terrorism is extreme fear to control the situation,” he said.
The militants have so far not been charged with any crimes, but the United States Code does include a legal definition of terrorism that is much more specific than the one outlined by Bundy and his interviewer.
The U.S. Code defines domestic terrorism as “activities that … appear to be intended … to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion and … occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”
The sheriff of Harney County, where the nature preserve is located, said the militants had come from out of state to protest the sentencing of ranchers Dwight and Stephen Hammond on arson charges but then took over the government building in hopes of taking over the county government and sparking a nationwide revolution.
Sheriff David Ward said the FBI, which is overseeing the situation, has assured him the militants will face charges.
The sheriff didn’t specify which charges those might be, but the U.S. Code outlines a charge for seditious conspiracy whose elements strongly resemble the plot to take over and occupy the nature preserve.
“If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both,” the statute reads.
Bundy and his group, which calls itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, told reporters they want the Hammonds to be released from custody and they want the federal government to hand over land near their ranch to local control.
“The best possible outcome is that the ranchers that have been kicked out of the area … will come back and reclaim their land, and the wildlife refuge will be shut down forever and the federal government will relinquish such control,” Ryan Bundy said in another interview. “What we’re doing is not rebellious. What we’re doing is in accordance with the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.”
Bundy told Intellihub that Hammond was a victim of government terrorism because the rancher feared that federal authorities would “put a bullet in (his) head.”
“He reported to prison not out of duty, not out of respect for the government, not out of guilt for crime that they say he committed — it was simply out of fear of the oppressive government,” Bundy said.
“He was in fear of being shot in the head — he was fearful for his life, his family’s life,” Bundy said. “He was fearful of others around him. So who has been using those tactics against him? The government has. So who are the terrorists?”