There’s one thing slightly less shocking than the arrest of nine members of the Hutaree Christian militia for plotting to plotting to kill law enforcement officers (with IEDs).

That’s conservative bloggers coming to their defense. Blue Texan at Firedoglake compiles the responses at the preceding link, but this one in particular jumped out at me.

America’s vigilant Anti-Terror Warriors on the right will certainly be relieved and grateful that the FBI nabbed these guys, right?

…Classical Values sees nothing illegal going on.

Last time I looked, wanting to start a civil war (insane as it is) was not a crime.

Huh? That’s not only a defense of the alleged plot, but it smacks of a justification.

So much for “law and order” conservatism, I guess.

What’s most interesting is the attempt to cast the activities in question as political rather than criminal — “wanting to start a “civil war” is another way of saying “planning to commit murder” in this case. Their plans to “start a civil war” were basically to murder a law enforcement officer and then murder other officers at his funeral.

According to court documents, however, the Hutaree, led by David Stone, had spent months researching explosives on the Internet and gathering supplies for an elaborate plan in which the group allegedly planned to kill an unidentified law enforcement officer and then ambush the officer’s colleagues at the funeral.

…Court documents charge that the group had plotted as the Hutaree since 2008. David Stone researched explosive devices on the Internet and directed son Joshua Stone and others to gather the necessary materials, authorities said.

In June 2009, authorities allege, Stone and his youngest son David Stone Jr. began teaching other Hutaree how to make and use the explosives to have been used during the officer’s funeral procession.

That at least meets the Wikipedia definition of conspiracy to commit murder

In the criminal law, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to break the law at some time in the future, and, in some cases, with at least one overt act in furtherance of that agreement.

…Conspiracy has been defined in the US as an agreement of two or more people to commit a crime, or to accomplish a legal end through illegal actions.[1][2] For example, planning to rob a bank (an illegal act) to raise money for charity (a legal end) remains a criminal conspiracy because the parties agreed to use illegal means to accomplish the end goal. A conspiracy does not need to have been planned in secret to meet the definition of the crime. One legal dictionary,, provides this useful example on the application of conspiracy law to an everyday sales transaction tainted by corruption. It shows how the law can handle both the criminal and the civil need for justice.

Conspiracy law usually does not require proof of specific intent by the defendants to injure any specific person to establish an illegal agreement. Instead, usually the law only requires the conspirators have agreed to engage in a certain illegal act. This is sometimes described as a “general intent” to violate the law.

If the blogger in question meant to suggest that “wanting to start a civil war” isn’t illegal, there may well be a case for that. As I pointed out a while back, conservatives have been calling for an overthrow of the U.S. government for for more than a year now.

And on, and on. Most recently, Rep. Steven King (R, IA) took the time during the health care reform vote to praise the few hundred hundred protesters — some of whom had pelted members of Congress with slurs like “nigger,” “faggot,” and “wetback” — and again raise the prospect of revolution.

“You are the awesome American people,” said King. “If I could start a country with a bunch of people, they’d be the folks who were standing with us the last few days. Let’s hope we don’t have to do that! Let’s beat that other side to a pulp! Let’s chase them down. There’s going to be a reckoning!” One by one, the people gathered outside the Capitol, who’d spent the day cheering and singing whenever Republicans appeared and egged them on, came to the realization that they’d been beaten in this round. They’d have to redouble their efforts.

(This is the the same Rep. King who sympathized with and even justified Joe Stack’s attack on the IRS.)

Now, as far as I know, none of these people were arrested for the above, or even — with the exception of Robinson, on whose website a threat to President Obama’s life was said to have been posted — warranted a visit from law enforcement. Probably, some Americans of all political stripes have publicly or privately entertained such notions.

But that’s a world away from what the Hutaree militia is alleged to have gotten up to.

According to federal authorities, the group had identified a Michigan law enforcement officer as a potential target. Their idea was to kill that officer and when law enforcement officials from around the country came to the area for the funeral, they would attack the procession with improvised explosive devices and “explosively formed projectiles.” They hoped the attack would serve as a “catalyst for a more wide-spread uprising against the government.”

A scouting mission was planned for April and, if someone had stumbled upon the mission, the Hutaree decided they could be killed, according to the indictment.

It was this mission that prompted the raids, said Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

“Because the Hutaree had planned a covert reconnaissance operation for April which had the potential of placing an unsuspecting member of the public at risk, the safety of the public and of the law enforcement community demanded intervention at this time,” she said in a prepared statement.

The report goes on to say that David Brian Stone had “solicited a person he felt could develop four anti-personnel IEDs to take with him,” to a planned militia summit that weather conditions ultimately kept him from attending. This is in addition to planning the scouting mission, alternately planning to kill the officer and his family, researching and gathering materials, and teaching other members how to make and use the IEDs to be used in the attack on the officers funeral procession.

What I found after just searching the internet suggests that the action taken doesn’t have to be a crime, so long as it shows that those involved knew about the plan and intended to break the law. And even if the intended crime not committed, the conspirators can be prosecuted under federal law.

If what’s alleged in the indictment and other reports is true, then law enforcement had every reason to act. Here was a group actively planning religious and politically motivated violence that would cost the lives of any number of innocent citizens if left unchecked. Arrest them, indict them, and let a jury what the evidence shows.

They not only planned, they prepared for it. Scheduled tentative dates, even. This sets them apart, even, from others in the militia movement who participate in training activities similar to those featured on the Huratee website. The Hutaree, if what’s in the indictment is true, were training with a particular goal in mind. If they were just days away from their “scouting mission,” law enforcement and Homeland Security officials were right not to “wait and see” how much closer they might come to carrying it out, if it meant even one life was endangered.

These are not people who looked like they had no I’m no legal expert, but apparently there was enough evidence for an arrest. It’s certainly enough to warrant an investigation of “solicitation to commit a crime of violence” based on the U.S. criminal code. That’s right, criminal.

Which brings me all the way back to the where I started this post — have we reached a point at which conservatives in the media, the blogosphere, or even in elected office stoop to politically justifying criminal acts?

Must it be said that if the Hutaree were non-white and non-Christian, or leftist but engaging in the same activities, the reaction on the right would be … Ah, you know the rest.

I’m with Digby on one thing.

What’s fascinates me most about the resurgent rightwing fringe is the fact that it’s so confused. And I think that actually works for it. Their only true organizing rationale is a common sense of outrage that anyone would think their philosophy/ideology is not a majority position. And when you think about it, that’s not entirely irrational.

After all, this doesn’t just come from the FOX ghetto — the mainstream media have also been saying for years that this is a conservative country and that these salt-o-the-earth Red State Republicans are the Real Americans etc. If that’s what you’ve been told all your life, the idea that a liberal (ish) black president and a party of women and non-whites could legitimately win an election wouldn’t seem possible.

Blame the fatuous gasbags. They’re the ones who have sold these people that bill of goods all these years. They believe that their cramped, conservative intolerance was shared by the majority because that’s what the villagers believed — and told them so for the past several decades.

And now, finally, guess who appears to be stuck defending, or at least excusing them.

Like I said, so much for “law and order” conservatism.

Now, about that whole “culture of life” thing…

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