New U.S. “Terror Warning”: Suppressing Protest in the Name of “Protecting Democracy”

Revolutionary Worker #1244, June 20, 2004, posted at

On May 26 Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller held a major prime-time news conference to claim that al-Qaida was close to launching a new terrorist attack in the U.S. within the next few months. Referring to what he called "credible intelligence from multiple sources," Ashcroft said, "after the March 11 attack in Madrid, Spain, an al-Qaida spokesman announced that 90 percent of the arrangements for an attack in the United States were complete." Ashcroft and Mueller presented before the TV and news cameras photos of seven individuals they alleged were terrorism suspects.

Even as Ashcroft and Mueller made this warning, they admitted they had no knowledge of any specific attack at any particular time or location. Nor did they present any evidence that would tie the seven individuals they named to any specific threats or to each other. And they said that these "suspects" probably hadn't even been in the U.S. for many years.

Two days later, NBC News reported that the "al-Qaida spokesman" Ashcroft referred to is actually "a largely discredited group, Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, known for putting propaganda on the Internet." According to NBC News, this group "has claimed responsibility for the power blackout in the Northeast last year, a power outage in London, and the Madrid bombings. None of the claims was found to be credible." A NBC news analyst, a former White House "terrorism expert," said of the group, "The only thing they haven't claimed credit for recently is the cicada invasion of Washington."

The Ashcroft-Mueller news conference also caused a stir in the media because of a notable absence of a key Bush administration official--the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge. In fact, as Ashcroft and Mueller were warning about imminent threats, Ridge and the Department of Homeland Security said publicly that there was no new information about attacks in the U.S., and they said there was no change in the government's color- coded "threat level."

All this led to speculation in the media about policy rifts within the administration and to accusations that Ashcroft and Miller were inflating "terror threats" to give a boost to Bush at a time when his opinion poll ratings are plummeting because of the deepening quagmire in Iraq.

One thing is clear--Ashcroft and Mueller's May 26 announcement is part of the overall efforts by the power structure to use "terror threats" as justification to suppress political protest and dissent. At their press conference, Ashcroft and Mueller said that upcoming events in the next several months were "especially attractive targets" for terrorist attacks--the June 8 Group of 8 (G-8) summit in Georgia, the July 4th celebrations, the Democratic and Republican national conventions this summer, and the November presidential elections.

The Department of Homeland Security has already designated the G-8 summit, the two conventions, and the November elections as "National Security Special Events." Homeland Security is coordinating with the military, Secret Service, FBI, and all levels of state and local cops to develop unprecedented mobilizations and repression for those events.

A glimpse into what all this means came out at the G-8 summit which took place in early June. Bush and other heads of the G-8 countries met at a militarized resort on Sea Island, dozens of miles from Georgia's Atlantic Ocean shore. Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue declared a "state of emergency" for the meetings. The closest the protesters could get to the G-8 meeting was the mainland town of Brunswick--where thousands of cops, Secret Service agents, and National Guard troops in armored Humvees and attack helicopters had been mobilized. The Brunswick city council amended its laws to give police authority to simply stop lawful protests at will under the state of emergency. Hundreds of people dared to stand up to all this to denounce and oppose the many crimes of the G-8 governments.

As the RW has reported, government and police authorities have raised the specter of "terrorist attacks" to try to block plans for demonstrations and to scare people away from protesting at the Republican National Convention in New York City at the end of August. (See "NYC: Anti-RNC Protest Permits Denied," RW #1240, available online at

Not in Our Name has called for a million people to be out in the streets of NYC on August 29 to declare a big "No!" to the whole Bush agenda. Dozens of other organizations are planning rallies, marches, and various forms of political protest. New York City authorities have denied permits for planned protests, and the NYPD has announced plans for a militarized lockdown in the area around Madison Square Garden where the RNC will be held.

Mueller said on May 26 that the conventions and elections "serve as powerful symbols of our free and democratic society. And unfortunately, the same events that fill most of us with hope and pride are seen by terrorists as possible opportunities for attack."

So in the name of protecting "democratic society," the heads of this government want to deny people the opportunity to make their voices heard in the streets!

This points to the reality behind so-called "freedom of expression" in this country. As Bob Avakian wrote in Democracy: Can't we Do Better Than That?, "The alleged freedom of expression in the `democratic countries' is a sham--and for two basic reasons--because the ruling class has a monopoly on the means of molding public opinion and because its monopoly of armed force puts it in a position to suppress, as violently as necessary, any expression of ideas, as well as any action, that poses a serious challenge to the established order."

At their May 26 press conference, Ashcroft pointed to the pictures of the seven "terrorist suspects" and encouraged people to broaden their view of who should be considered "suspicious" by saying "the face of al-Qaida may be changing." He said that al-Qaida was seeking recruits "who can portray themselves as Europeans. Al-Qaida also attracts Muslim extremists among many nationalities and ethnicities, including North Africans and South Asians, as well as recruiting young Muslim converts of any nationality inside target countries."

Ashcroft and Mueller announced the formation of a major new task force that would do more "interviews" in Muslim communities in the U.S. They said these "interviews" would be like the ones carried out last winter and spring--when the FBI and police harassed and threatened thousands of Iraqis living across the U.S.


As Bob Avakian has pointed out, the fascistic moves of the ruling class inside this country is directly related to their global agenda: "I think if you look at what their [U.S. imperialists'] wild ambitions are, what their agenda is for reshuffling the deck, recasting the whole world order, in order to more firmly implant and fortify their domination and their top-dog position and their global exploitation, then clearly they need to not have opposition to that. They need to have people silent and obedient and cowed now, and even weakened in their ability to wage resistance as things go down the road." (from "Bob Avakian Speaks Out--Interviewed by Carl Dix")

This makes it all the more crucial for people in this country to refuse to be silent, obedient and cowed in the face of the ugly plans and actions of the U.S. imperialist beast. And all the more urgent to deliver a massive refutation of Bush and all that he and his class stand for, a clear and loud NO that can be seen and heard around the world.