President Biden, congressional Democrats, and much of the media are clamoring for a new law against domestic terrorism. Before enacting a new law, Americans should recognize how “terrorism” has spurred deluges of political and prosecutorial malarkey for almost 20 years. Any new crackdown on terrorism will turn into a numbers game in which justice and fair play don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell.
In the six weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the feds rounded up 1,200 people as suspected terrorists or terrorist supporters in the United States. All that was necessary for an Arab illegal immigrant to be considered a suspected terrorist was to encounter FBI agents in New York or New Jersey. Some FBI agents were instructed to look in phone books to find names of Arabs or Muslims who could be targeted. Federal judges repeatedly condemned the secret arrests and none of the detainees proved to have links to the attacks. But even after the Justice Department released or deported most of those detainees, President Bush continued to describe all of them as “terrorists” and “murderers.”
President Biden has often claimed that, during his time on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he wrote the draft bill that later became the Patriot Act. That law, passed immediately after the 9/11 attacks, expanded the definition of terrorism to include activities involving “acts dangerous to human life” that, among other things, may “appear to be intended to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.” It can take only a few scuffles at a rally to transform a protest group into a terrorist entity. Even if the violence at a rally is initiated by a government agent provocateur, the feds can treat all of a group’s members as terrorists.
The Patriot Act set off a publicity gold rush for federal prosecutors. The feds arrested more than a thousand airport workers and portrayed them as would-be terrorists. Sixty nine airport workers in Salt Lake City were indicted on December 11, 2001, for false statements on employment applications or bogus Social Security numbers. Though U.S. Attorney Paul Warner declared that “there is no evidence that anyone indicted…has attempted any kind of terrorist activity at the airport,” he still characterized the crackdown as a “joint anti-terrorism effort.” The Salt Lake Tribune later reported that “nearly two-thirds of the original 69 indicted workers either had their cases dismissed or were sentenced to probation, for terms that ranged from 36 months down to a single day.”
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