So how about this stuff with Josh Connole?

For those who haven’t been following: In 2003, about 125 SUVs at SoCal car dealerships were burned and vandalized. Slogans like "Fat Lazy Americans" and "ELF" were left behind.

Of course, as we all know this is not mere property destruction, not mere crime, but "eco-terrorism."

So the FBI was brought in and they starting looking for likely suspects. They found a vegan, commune-living, Iraq-war protesting, electric-car driving, fossil-fuel hating activist, and arrested him. Except, oops:

“So they immediately started following him around and then when they arrested him they said, ‘You’ve got some red paint on your pants and we think it matches (the paint used in the attacks),” [Connole attorney John] Burton said. “So they took his pants and flew them back to FBI headquarters for analysis, where it turned out to be catsup.”

In the meantime, Burton said, Connole spent four days in jail, often chained to the floor and repeatedly urged by FBI agents to confess.

Meanwhile, the guy who really did it wrote a letter to the L.A. Times, mocking the feds for getting the wrong guy.

Now, from the tone of the coverage, I think the idea is that we’re all supposed to be upset that the feds are surveilling people based on their political activity — and in fact, that Connole was arrested based purely on his politics.

But that slightly misses the point.

"Terrorism," if it means anything, must include the deliberate targeting of civilians for injury or death. But no radical animal-rights or environmental group is doing that. They hurt property, not people. Calling that "terrorism" has nothing to do with the severity or nature of the crime — it has to do with the nature of the criminals. It is an overt attempt to demonize a certain political position.

You have two things going on here:

One is an attempt to loosen all restraints on the executive branch when it comes to terrorism — to cast terrorism as so bad that it justifies the suspension of basic legal protections.

The other is an attempt to take what has become an incredibly loaded word — terrorism — and apply it to domestic political enemies.

Like I’ve said, I’m not the conspiracy-theory type, but this is Authoritarianism 101.

The arrest of Josh Connole blew up in their faces this time, but he was not some sort of aberration or overreach. The surveillance and intimidation of the Josh Connoles of the world is the very purpose of the fight against "eco-terror."

Mark my words: For every Connole we hear about, another 100 we won’t.