Is designating Joanne Chesimard a terrorist a threat to us all?

Until yesterday, Joanne Chesimard had been a convicted murderer for thirty-six years. Now, she’s a “terrorist”. What changed? Photo: FBI photo

TEXAS, May 3, 2013—Yesterday the FBI announced that it has made Joanne Chesimard, AKA: Assata Shakur, a fugitive member of the Black Liberation Army convicted of murdering a New Jersey state trooper in 1973, the first woman on its list of most-wanted terrorists. But they failed to clarify the aspects of her case that have changed over the past forty years, to prompt them to do so.

At yesterday’s press conference, Aaron T. Ford, agent in charge of the FBI’s Newark division, announced the placement of Joanne Chesimard on the FBI’s “Terrorism” list, and the doubling of the reward for her capture to $2,000,000.

Has the FBI has redefined what makes a US citizen a terrorist?

Addressing the press, Agent Ford stated “While living openly and freely in Cuba she (Joanne Chesimard) continues to maintain and promote her terrorist ideology. She provides anti US Government speeches espousing the Black Liberation Army message of revolution and terrorism. No person, no matter what his or her politics or moral convictions are, is above the law.”

Joanne Chesimard is a convicted felon. Whether or not she received a fair trial for the crimes she is accused of committing is for the courts and history to decide.

However, her designation by the FBI as a terrorist raises the question, does living on the lam in foreign country, proselytizing views (hateful or not), to anyone who will listen, make Chesimard a terrorist?

No one is above the law. However, Article I of the constitution prevents congress from abridging a citizen’s freedom of speech, and also allows a citizen to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Does the fact that Ms. Chesimard escaped justice and absconded to Cuba in order to spout-off revoke her rights as an American? If an American is on vacation in France, is he at risk of being labeled a terrorist if he voices disagreement with a particular US policy?    

From February 15, 1977 to March 25, 1977, Ms. Chesimard was tried and convicted of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, atrocious assault and battery, assault and battery against a police officer, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with intent to kill, illegal possession of a weapon, and armed robbery. She was also tried between 1971 and 1973 for two separate instances of bank robbery, and one count of kidnapping, but was acquitted of those charges.

She has never been charged with terrorism. Why is she suddenly, according to agent Ford, “a supreme terror against the government”?

Ms. Chesimard, who was once a member of the Black Panther Party and later joined the Black Liberation Army, proclaims that she is innocent and calls herself the victim of a racist judicial system.

According to the New York Times, Lennox S. Hinds, a professor of criminal justice at Rutgers who defended Ms. Chesimard in the murder case, “there is no evidence that she in fact either caused the death or was involved in the shooting of the state trooper.”

“The allegation that Ms. Shakur is a terrorist is unfounded,” Professor Hinds said. “The attempt at this point by the New Jersey State Police to characterize her as a terrorist is designed to inflame the public who may be unfamiliar with the facts.” 

What we need is a clear definition of what makes someone a terrorist; especially if that someone is an American citizen. As difficult as it is to do so, we must scrutinize and defend the rights of all of our citizens; even those whose crimes are heinous and reprehensible; because if we don’t protect theirs, we will certainly lose ours. 

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Derek Crockett

Derek Crockett is a retired Engineering Technician with a love for technology, and industry experience ranging from the production of printed wire boards to the manufacture of semi-conductor production tools. Derek is a resident of Copperas Cove, Texas, and has worked for many of the world’s leading technology companies such as Solectron, Samsung, AMD, and Applied Materials. He now writes technology related news articles and reviews at


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