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State Department: Tucson shooter not equivalent to Muslim extremists

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voluntarily raised the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) on a trip to the Arab world, comparing alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner to Muslim extremists. The State Department clarified that she was not saying Loughner should be treated as a terrorist. "We have extremists in my country. A wonderful, ...

By , a former staff writer at Foreign Policy.
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voluntarily raised the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) on a trip to the Arab world, comparing alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner to Muslim extremists. The State Department clarified that she was not saying Loughner should be treated as a terrorist.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voluntarily raised the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) on a trip to the Arab world, comparing alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner to Muslim extremists. The State Department clarified that she was not saying Loughner should be treated as a terrorist.

"We have extremists in my country. A wonderful, incredibly brave young woman Congress member, Congresswoman Gifford[s], was just shot by an extremist in our country," Clinton said during a "Townterview" (half town hall, half interview) with students in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

The student had asked Clinton why many in the United States target the entire Arab world when assigning blame for the 9/11 attacks. In response, Clinton drew a comparison between Arab terrorists that perpetrate violence and Loughner.

"The extremists and their voices, the crazy voices that sometimes get on the TV, that’s not who we are, that’s not who you are, and what we have to do is get through that and make it clear that that doesn’t represent either American or Arab ideas or opinions," Clinton said.

But Clinton wasn’t advocating that the U.S. government treat Loughner in the same manner as it would treat a non-American Muslim extremist, which might include detention without trial, aggressive interrogations, or even extrajudicial killing.

"She was making remarks in the context of the environment she was in, talking about the parallels," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.  "I don’t think she was talking about some kind of equivalency in terms of how we treat them. We have a legal due process here in terms of the Arizona incident."

According to U.S. law, "the term ‘terrorism’ means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents."

Some Americans, such as Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, have reportedly been stripped of their rights and put on U.S. government "kill lists" due to their alleged participation in terrorist activities.

Other Americans, such as Fort Hood shooter Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, have not been treated as terrorists. Hasan reportedly tried to make contact with al Qaeda and had ties to Awlaki dating back to the cleric’s time living in Falls Church, VA.  

Loughner himself addressed, albeit in a murky fashion, whether he can be classified as a terrorist in one of his many Youtube videos.

"[A] terrorist is a person who terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon," Loughner wrote. "If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem. You call me a terrorist. Thus, the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem."

Josh Rogin is a former staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshrogin

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