Attacks on Abortion Providers Considered Domestic Terrorism

Violence against clinics and abortion providers is included in the definition of domestic terrorism used in the new anti-terrorism legislation signed by President Bush on October 26. The law defines “domestic terrorism” as acts that are dangerous to human life, are in violation of federal or state criminal laws, and appear to be intended to “intimidate or coerce a civilian population; [or] to influence the policy of the government by intimidationÉ.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used this definition prior to President Bush’s signing of the law and used it to declare anti-abortion extremist and fugitive Clayton Waagner a domestic terrorist.

The new anti-terrorism law makes the assets of any group involved in domestic terrorism subject to civil forfeiture laws and enhances law enforcement’s ability to investigate crimes of domestic terrorism by empowering courts to issue search warrants for any part of the United States. The law increases law enforcement’s access to education records in cases involving domestic terrorism, funding for programs for victims of domestic terrorism, and availability of rewards for information leading to the conviction of domestic terrorists.

The law also labels certain crimes, including the bombing of buildings used in interstate commerce, such as abortion clinics, as “Federal Terrorism Offenses” (FTOs). If the FTO caused death or created the risk of death or serious bodily injury, there is no statute of limitations for the prosecution of the crime and the perpetrator may be supervised for life after being released from prison.

The law also contains provisions that infringe upon civil rights and liberties. For example, the law allows searches of homes with warrants without informing the owner, detention of non-citizens for up to seven days without charging them with a crime, lowers the threshold showing law enforcement must make before it is permitted to trace phone calls, and increases the ability of the federal government to exclude immigrants.


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