Nov 5, 2001
On October 25, the U.S. Senate voted 98 to 1 to pass the so-called “anti-terrorism” law that the U.S. House had already approved 356 to 66. That is, both parties voted for this new law which authorized big attacks on civil liberties and could easily be used against a militant workers’ movement in the future.
The law defines a new crime of domestic terrorism as an act that is intended to intimidate or coerce civilians or to influence the policy of a government by intimidation and coercion. In U.S. history at various times, strikes were illegal and considered to be criminal – precisely because they were attempts to coerce the bosses to pay higher wages and better benefits.
This law could easily be used to make organizations that try to lead strikes once again guilty of a crime – this time, domestic terrorism. Protests against a war carried out by government or against Jim Crow laws imposed on a part of the population would fit this definition of terrorism. Anyone who provides lodging to a terrorist could be charged with a crime. In other words, someone who gave a striker a place to stay could be charged with harboring a terrorist.
This is exactly the kind of reasoning the government has used over and over again against the workers’ and other social movements.
The new law puts the CIA back in the business of spying on U.S. citizens – not just actual terrorists, but against anyone the authorities label a terrorist. Significantly, the five dock workers currently on trial in South Carolina for demonstrating against a company which was using scab labor have been equated by the state’s attorney general with the terrorists of September 11.
The law makes major changes in the way the police use search warrants. Under the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, the government has to obtain a warrant and notify you that they are entering your property to carry out a search. Under the new law, the government can legally enter your house, apartment or office when you are away and not tell you about it – just like in any police state.
The government would have the authority to detain for seven days non-citizens who are not terrorists on the basis of vague allegations, even when they have never been convicted of a crime.
Today, of course, the protections supposedly guaranteed by the Bill of Rights are often violated in reality. The proof is that they are today holding people indefinitely who have never been charged with a crime. And when government moves to legalize the previously illegal steps it was surreptitiously taking, it’s announcing its intentions to ratchet up repression. That’s what this new law is: not a law against terrorism, but a law giving more rights to the terrorist activities carried out by this government against the population.