Bringing Back McCarthyism
"Counter-Terrorism" Bill Will Legalize
New Terror Against the People
Refuse & Resist!
This essay was originally published in the March/April
'96 issue of Counterattack
Bringing Back McCarthyism
"We can intensify the fight against terrorists and organized
criminals at home and abroad, if Congress passes the anti-terrorism
legislation I proposed after the Oklahoma City bombing -- now."
- Bill Clinton, January 1996 State of the Union address
Apparently, what the President was talking about in this extremely
brief reference to one real scary piece of legislation is the
Omnibus Counter-terrorism Act of 1995. The bill was not his response
to the Oklahoma City bombing, although pretending it is will make
it easier for many to swallow. In fact, this sweeping piece of
legislation was in the works by the end of 1994.
In January of 1995, President Clinton declared 12 organizations
to be terrorist and froze their assets. This act also authorized
the Secretary of State to add others to the blacklist without
review and to bar U.S. citizens from providing any aid to the
In February, 1995, the administration unveiled legislation
in the form of the "Omnibus Counter Terrorism Act of 1995"
that will make such blacklisting by the executive branch a regular
activity and will criminalize previously legal political association
in the U.S.
The House and Senate considered separate versions of this
so-called Counter-terrorism legislation during the summer and
fall, after the Republicans presented their own, somewhat less
restrictive version, and the various bills and amendments are
now in committee.
All of the versions under consideration give the government
official new powers to terrorize immigrants and citizens that
mirror and codify the anti-communist crusades of the 1950s.
Here are some of the most dangerous provisions of the bills:
Sweeping power for the Executive branch to designate any organization
as terrorist under an extremely broad definition and with no meaningful
The definition of terrorist in the immigration provisions
has two parts: 1. "Any unlawful use of fire arm or weapon
with intent to endanger property or person." 2. The
group's terrorism activities "threaten the national security,
foreign policy or economy of the U.S." This is so broad that
it could only be applied selectively, and acts that could
fall under this include spray-painting a federal building or shooting
at a highway sign, or even conspiring to shoot at a highway sign.
One version does provide for appeal to DC district court,
but a decision by such a court against the President is extremely
Guilt by association. The bills authorize the deportation
of immigrants and imprisonment of citizens based on their political
association. Current law already outlaws support for terrorist
activity, in the U.S. and abroad, but this law would make it a
federal crime to donate money for humanitarian aid to any group
associated with an organization the President has named
as terrorist. What about donations to humanitarian efforts by
groups the government has labeled "terrorist,"
like money for medicine and food for Palestinians? Not allowed.
The rationale is that money is fungible. Money donated to buy
food and medical supplies could free up funds for the supposed
"terrorist" activities. The only provision for such
donations demands that the group and the individual donating
money open their books to the US government and then get
licensed. This constitutes prior restraint
As lawyer David Cole pointed out in testimony against the
legislation, if the President named the Girl Scouts as a terrorist
organization, then buying Girl Scout cookies would become
a federal crime.
Secret evidence. For immigrants, deportation hearings by a
special 5-justice court would be carried out in secret and immigrants
could be deported under this act for lawful political activity.
Evidence against the person being charged and the source of that
evidence could be secret. This puts the burden of proof on the
accused AND eliminates the ability of the accused or the
defense lawyer to mount a defense. There is no provision for suppression
of evidence by the defense, the lawyer cannot participate
in an appeal and the person charged is subject to immediate detention
without bail. Secret evidence can also be used against
citizens with penalties starting at 10 years imprisonment.
This type of judicial procedure is called an inquisition and
is just what the current legal system here was developed to change.
Reinstatement of the Exclusionary Rule. This rule, overturned
in the Immigration Act of 1990, provided for exclusion of immigrants
from legal status in the U.S. based on their political
beliefs. The earlier form of the exclusionary rule was aimed at
keeping communists from entering the U.S.
Expanded powers for the FBI. The legislation turns a lot of
currently legal political activity into a federal crime. Over
$1.8 billion would be allotted to enforce this legislation
and it not only opens the way for a COINTELPRO-style operation,
but demands the maintenance of this type of government activity.
It authorizes the hiring of 1,000 new federal agents, prosecutors,
and other law enforcement personnel, repeals all older provisions
barring the U.S. military from civilian law enforcement
and expands the government's legal access to phone taps, phone
company records, credit records, etc.
Restriction of current Habeus Corpus laws. Prisoners sent
to death row in state courts would have one (1) year to appeal
and could only appeal at the federal level. This apparently
unrelated provision comes at a time when the death penalty is
being revived as a solution to crime and several recent death
penalty cases have revealed years of wrongful imprisonment
for some owing to misconduct on the part of the courts and the
cops. Could this be applied retroactively? It COULD be.
What does it Mean?
The first target of this legislation is support in the U.S.
for liberation struggles abroad, which often takes the form of
donations to humanitarian efforts. The ANC of South Africa was
once considered by the U.S. government to be a "terrorist"
organization and, under this bill, donations to Nelson Mandela's
tour of the U.S. a few years ago would have been illegal. This
in itself is some major hypocrisy from a government for which
sponsoring the Contras in an effort to overthrow the government
of Nicaragua is just the tip of the iceberg.
Of course, this bill targets immigrants first. The U.S. deported
more than 51,000 people last year. Immigrants are the new scapegoats
for politicians and open racists and there are already "detention"
centers in many parts of the U.S. holding people who have no access
to lawyers, their families or their allies among the people of
And the bill also opens the way for much more. Blacklisting
of groups and prosecution using secret evidence would create a
situation where pretty much all political association can be suspect.
Will some political groups resist working with others for fear
of labels the government might apply to them? Will individuals
fear being associated with political groups, since they will never
know all of the affiliations of other members of the groups or
what the government will target next under this legislation? This
is a real application of "terrorism."
So far, we have not heard much publicity for the "Counter-Terrorism"
bill, and, because of its name, people are unlikely to think it
ever COULD apply to them. It has to be exposed and fought now.
What Can We Do?
Stand by immigrants. Counter all anti-immigrant initiatives
from "English Only" to the idea that immigrants are
taking away what "belongs" to American citizens. Point
out the hypocrisy of using borders to divide people while corporations
freely cross those same borders to exploit workers in other countries.
Organize events and sticker and poster campaigns to spread support
for those who are under attack because of lack of "citizenship."
Popularize the "Illegal" button (a blue triangle on
a black background) as a symbol of this stance. Order the buttons
from the National Office of Refuse & Resist!. 305 Madison
Ave. Suite 1166, New York, NY 10165 212-713-5657.
Educate people on the "Counter-terrorism" legislation
and the "terrorism" by the government that it will legalize:
attacks on support for liberation struggles abroad, attacks on
immigrants, attacks on all political association.
Ask this question in a big way: Who are the real terrorists?
The targets of this legislation or those who will use and support
Join Refuse & Resist !
305 Madison Ave., Suite 1166
New York, NY 10165