When Do Demonstrators Become Terrorists?

by Ross Regnart

email January 8, 2001


The Anti-Terrorist Act of 1996 appears aimed at public dissent: The ACT contains language which can charge law-abiding citizens of being agents or affording support to terrorist organizations:

Broadly written intent to commit terrorist acts is defined: (Appeared To Be Intended Toward Violence or Activities Which Could Intimidate or Coerce a Civilian Population; or To Influence the Policy of a Government). (18USC Sec. 2331):

Any picket line or demonstration, alleged by police to have blocked or obstructed public access, could qualify as "Terrorist Activities" to intimidate or coerce a civilian population: Terrorist charges make it possible for police to forfeit attending demonstrators homes used for meetings and the vehicles they used for transportation to the event.

CONCERN: Police agencies may selectively charge a person or organization with either a low level offense, or terrorist offense, for the same illegal act: Example: A fist fight between union demonstrators and persons crossing a picket line, can be upgraded by police to charge union members with (Terrorist Activity).

The 1996 Anti-Terrorist Act, broadly-redefined "Terrorist Acts as involving any violent act or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state." The violent or physical act need not cause bodily harm: The Act can be used by police to target any group of persons that would dare demonstrate for or against any issue.


The 1996 Anti-Terrorist Act has wide reaching forfeiture provisions. The Act utilizes the broad term (supporting organizations that transcend boundaries). Any organization or group that advocates support for a cause or organization within a U.S. jurisdiction, or across a state line, or in another country, is considered by U.S. Government to be (transcending boundaries). Consequently, any environmental group or organization is vulnerable to being charged with supporting (terrorist activity) should any member of an organization they supported be charged by the U.S. or other government, with having (intimidated or coerced a civilian population; or influenced the policy of a government). Please see USC18 2991, including additional provisions. U.S. Government can now seize the assets of innocent organizations and/or members alleged to have supported an organization, group, or person(s) committing a terrorist activity. Excessive government property forfeiture provisions are tied to the 1996 Anti-Terrorist act: U.S. Government can forfeit SOURCE ASSETS that supported terrorist activity. So if a person for example uses income from their business or bank account to support an organization or persons the U.S. Government later alleges committed or supported terrorist acts, the U.S. Government may seize the contributor's business or bank account as a SOURCE ASSET.

Keep in mind, intimidation may qualify as a terrorist act. So if the press or government has criminalized an organization, the presence of the organization's members at a demonstration or other event may be enough for a police agency to allege the members or their organization (intimidated a civilian population; or influenced the policy of a government) under 18USC 2991 International Terrorist Activities. Government may now use the 1996 Anti-Terrorist Act to selectively eradicate any group or person which is believed to be objectionable.

CONCERN: Police can charge lawful citizens who attend demonstrations and other public events with affording support to demonstrators whose activities may constitute Terrorist Activities under USC18 2991. Innocent attending demonstrators run the risk of being charged as terrorists, then having to prove by their presence at a demonstration, they were not supporting the illegal activities of the alleged terrorist demonstrators.

CATCH 22: Lawful demonstrators may be convicted simply because they did not think to leave an event where some demonstrators were committing illegal acts. Broad provisions of the 1996 Anti-Terrorist Act may eventually scare-off citizens from attending lawful demonstrations and/or contributing money to progressive causes.

CONCERN: A corrupt government and/or its paid operatives, may too easily cause the arrest of innocent demonstrators and/or cause government forfeiture of their assets. Note: Conviction of an activist or organization is NOT necessary for government to forfeit an owner's property. U.S. Government may civil forfeit a citizen's assets using only a (Preponderance of Evidence) by showing an owners property was involved in a felony that would make it subject to forfeiture. 200 felonies can now cause government forfeiture of property: Republican Congressman Henry Hyde got passed in Congress (The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000) HR 1658. The statute of limitations, the time period police have to civilly forfeit property, begin five years from the time police claim to have learned an asset was made subject to forfeiture. Concern: Police can claim that anytime in the future.

CONCERN: Corporate security and private intelligence companies now work so closely with U.S. police agencies, they appear to merge. Private security corporations by working closely with U.S. police agencies are in a position to influence local and federal police as to which political/environmental opponents should be arrested, or have their assets forfeited. Note: Neither charged defendants, nor anyone else, can use the Freedom of Information Act to penetrate corporate information banks to learn if a corporation illegally obtained or provided information to a police agency. Increasingly, corporate informants work both sides of the street when they get paid for providing police the same information about, e.g., a political or environmental group.

It is a dangerous trend in the United States when police agencies merge with corporate security forces, become perhaps an illegal enterprise, to violate a persons Constitutional and civil rights. Secret Witnesses, Secret Jurors, Secret Testimony, Hidden Evidence: Once U.S. Government or police charge a person or organization under 18USC 2991, (International Terrorist Activity) the U.S. Government may use secret witnesses, secret jurors, secret testimony, and other hidden evidence to convict a defendant and/or forfeit their assets. All this secrecy can be invoked by U.S. Government to protect alleged-national security, an ongoing investigation, undisclosed witnesses and jurors.

The same police agencies involved in the investigation may get to share in the citizen's assets after they are forfeited by the government. This is especially dangerous since police routinely purchase testimony. Persons charged under the 1996 Anti-Terrorist Act, may have difficulty defending themselves even against the death penalty when they may not be allowed to know the secret evidence against them, or cross examine government's secret witnesses. Such Star Chamber Courts do not serve the interests of a free society.

Had the 1996 Anti-Terrorist Act been in effect during the days of COINTELPRO, 1960 through the 1980s, many foundations and citizens to avoid risks such as being charged as terrorists or losing their assets to forfeiture, would have given contributions only to organizations that the U.S. Government approved of, not to progressive organizations or persons who would dare question or confront government policies or attempt to legally stop corporate polluters.

GOVERNMENT COINTELPRO RED SQUADS appear to be back. This time the squads have in their arsenal the 1996 Ant-Terrorist Act and new property forfeiture laws which they may use to eradicate their political, environmental and human rights opponents.

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