>World Socialist Web Site
>WSWS : News & Analysis : North America
>US panel calls for stepped-up repression and police spying
>By Joseph Tanniru
>12 June 2000
>A report issued by the National Commission on Terrorism was released last
>week, outlining the panel's proposals for strengthening the repressive
>powers of the US government in the name of fighting "terrorism." The
>report uses this pretext -- unrelated to any actual increase in terrorist
>activities -- to justify measures that would curtail basic civil liberties
>and increase the power of US intelligence agencies and the military.
>The Commission was established after the 1998 bombings of US embassies in
>Kenya and Tanzania. Its official purpose was to develop strategies to
>counter the alleged growing terrorist threat to the US. It is composed of
>six Republicans and four Democrats who were appointed by the House of
>Representatives and Senate.
>In general, the report states that the United States should be more
>aggressive in tracking down and prosecuting those labeled as suspected or
>potential "terrorists." One of its most controversial proposals is that
>the activity of foreign students visiting the US be tracked more closely.
>"A small minority may exploit their student status to support terrorist
>activity, " the report argues, and therefore intelligence agencies should
>follow the identity and activity of all foreign-national students.
>This plan is not only overtly racist, but it ignores the reality that the
>bulk of terrorist attacks in America, and certainly the bloodiest, have
>been perpetrated not by foreign students or immigrants, but by homegrown
>American fascists like Timothy McVeigh. But there is no suggestion that
>the CIA monitor the activity of all American students, because a "small
>minority may exploit their student status to support terrorist activity,"
>or that similar measures should be applied to discharged veterans of the
>US military (like McVeigh and Terry Nichols) or other social groups from
>which a terrorist might possibly emerge.
>It is worth recalling that the immediate response of the US government and
>media to the Oklahoma City bombing was that foreign terrorists must have
>carried it out, before it came to light that the atrocity was, in fact,
>the activity of fanatic right-wing Americans. In any case, the latest
>proposal continues the demonization of foreigners and immigrants. It
>represents an attack on the civil liberties of foreign students, who are
>all smeared by the report, based on their ethnicity and nationality, as
>potential supporters of terrorism.
>The report also suggests that the military assume control of the response
>to any major terrorist attack. Currently, such control would be allocated
>to civilian agencies such as the FBI and the Federal Emergence Management
>Agency (FEMA). It is argued that the military is more organized, with
>better communications systems, and would therefore be more capable of
>handling a major crisis on US soil.
>This suggestion -- part of a general growth in the importance of the
>military for the US government -- is quite extraordinary, given the
>traditional exclusion of the military from domestic affairs. The
>Commission's chairman L. Paul Bremer asserts that the report is "not
>recommending martial law. " Nevertheless the motives behind the proposal
>are clear. It could be used, in the event of any threat deemed "terrorist
>" in nature, to justify the deployment of the army in restoring order. As
>an editorial in USA Today points out, the military is used in domestic
>affairs only by those "who like the swiftness with which soldiers
>imprison and repress civilians. "
>Another proposal would weaken restrictions on the information-gathering
>practices of the CIA with regard to the pursuit of suspected terrorists.
>"The CIA has created a climate that is overly risk averse, " when it comes
>to employing so-called unsavory individuals. Prohibitions on the use of
>unsavory persons are meant to prevent the agency from following mistaken
>leads and to prevent the prosecution of innocent individuals based on the
>testimony of unreliable sources. Bill Harlow, a spokesman for the CIA, was
>quick to point out that these restrictions did not hinder the agency's
>activity. "There has never been a case, " he said, "when higher-ups were
>asked to authorize utilizing unsavory people that they didn't say, Go
>Other proposals include:
>* declaring Greece and Pakistan to be countries "not fully cooperating"
>with US anti-terrorist plans. Bremer states that over the past 25 years
>there have been 146 attacks against American targets in Greece, only one
>of which was solved. Both the Greek and the Pakistani governments reacted
>strongly against the proposal. "The report's content, " said Greek
>Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas, "bears no relation to reality. "
>* declaring Afghanistan a "state sponsor of terrorism ";
>* stopping the process of US reconciliation with Iran, on the grounds of
>Iran's supposed support of terrorism;
>* passing stricter laws on the manufacture and transport of materials that
>could be used in biological weapons.
>The justification for all of these suggested measures is the supposed
>increased threat of terrorist attacks to the US. This rationale is
>extremely dubious, given that of the 393 acts worldwide deemed to be
>"terrorist" in nature last year, only two occurred in North America.
>Certainly the foreign policy of the US government has provoked
>anti-American sentiment among some groups, however this alleged "terrorist
>threat" is being used to justify the strengthening of the American state,
>the infringement of basic liberties, and the removal of restrictions to
>domestic intelligence activity. As with the justification for the
>construction of a missile defense system, the official rationale --
>whether it is the threat from "rogue states" or that from terrorists --
>serves as a pretext for ulterior strategic aims of the US government. The
>measures proposed by the National Committee on Terrorism, if carried out,
>will be used to attack all opposition to the policies of the US state.
>The proposals are merely a part of a wider strengthening of US military
>and intelligence agencies. A recent report reveals that in 1999 permission
>was given to the FBI and the National Security Agency to carry out a total
>of 880 wiretaps, a dramatic increase over previous years. In 1993, the
>year before Clinton took office, the number was 484, and in 1990 it was
>These activities have come under attack by civil liberties organizations,
>in part because the government is not required to divulge the rational
>behind the decision to seek a tap. "We're concerned, " said James Zogby
>of the Arab-American Institute, "over the disregard we see for civil
>liberties in this administration. " The secret federal court that was
>established in 1978 to regulate the tapping has provided only a rubber
>stamp for federal spying, approving 13,600 taps and disapproving only one.
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