- H.R. 3162, "The Patriot
Bill," or the antiterrorism bill, might make you a terrorist. Any
persons among us who have accepted that certain civil liberties must be
abridged in time of war, or forever, for the sake of security, are going
to learn Ben Franklin's lesson the hard way: Those who would give up
for security deserve, and will get, neither.
- First, the antiterrorism bill so loved by Congress and
the White House has redefined terrorism. According to Sec. 802,
"the term 'domestic terrorism' means activities that appear to be
intended to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or
Again: If the activity appears to be intended to influence the policy of
a government - not just the United States government - by intimidation,
it's domestic terrorism. Most important: Since all we require is
how would we define that?
- "Intimidation" does not seem to be defined
in H.R. 3162. We thus must turn to authoritative dictionaries, which say
such things as "to make timid." Put it in the hands of a trial
lawyer, and here's how it could play out: Have you ever felt intimidated
by someone smarter, larger, older, wealthier, higher in rank, more
more physically fit, more passionate, or more popular than yourself? That's
all it takes to establish intimidation in court - being made timid. Get
a jury or judge to buy your version of events, and you win.
- So while intimidation is a weak criterion, far too easy
to establish in a court of law, you don't even have to establish anyone's
intent to intimidate, much less his success at intimidating someone. You,
the prosecutor, have to establish only the appearance of the intention
to intimidate any government, and you can try anyone for domestic
- So, those of us who disagree publicly with the
responses to 9/11 - especially if our disagreements are reasoned,
and impassioned - are, by definition, terrorists. The only requirement
is that someone, somewhere believes it appears we're trying to intimidate
the government. This is an ominous glower over free speech.
- How ominous? It depends in part on whether you're a
Suppose a Canadian citizen writes an anti-war column for an American
Bush signed an executive order on Tuesday, November 13, which allows for
any foreigner connected to the events of 9/11 to be tried by military
This means, among other things, that the trials can be held in secret,
defendants do not get the usual protections (such as an extended appeals
process), the death penalty is an option, and Bush decides who is tried.
If the notion of "connected" is as vague and potentially
as the definition of "domestic terrorism" mentioned above, all
foreigners who speak out in disagreement with the US government might have
reason to fear suspicion with regard to 9/11.
- Remember that foreigners aren't alone - H.R. 3162 applies
to everyone. Foreigners are singled out only in Bush's executive order.
The only difference between foreigners and citizens is the option of the
- We've all heard how new laws won't function in unintended
ways: The Civil Rights Act wouldn't result in hiring quotas; the Americans
with Disabilities Act wouldn't result in costly and ridiculous lawsuits
(such as the Supreme Court deciding the rules of golf); and the Endangered
Species act wouldn't threaten property rights.
- With such unintended consequences being the rule rather
than the exception, be careful not to complain about the amount of your
Social Security check or tax liability. Don't complain about emissions
regulations. Don't complain about anything the government says or does.
According to the definitions in H.R. 3162, your speech (especially if it's
cogent) need only criticize the government, and you could stand accused
of domestic terrorism.
- Brad Edmonds, MS in Industrial Psychology, Doctor
of Musical Arts, is a banker in Alabama.
- Copyright © 2001 LewRockwell.com
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