One party that may benefit from the Web's new look is Bill Clinton, who eagerly takes any attack on business as grounds for increasing Web surveillance. Already, Clinton has called a meeting to bring law enforcement and corporations together, and more spending on net spy technology can't be far behind, whether big business wants it or not.

"If someone in Congress wants to pass mandatory outgoing address verification, they'd likely end up in a room with a bunch of us saying, 'Who the fuck made you a black-belt engineer?' " says a senior Silicon Valley executive. "That would be just one more use of computing capacity and bandwidth that isn't there, and all it would do would slow the whole Web down. And right now, Congress is scared shitless of messing anything on the Web up, because a lot of people up there believe that part of the reason the economy is going so well is because of not regulating the Internet."

Illustration by Lloyd Miller

So was this—by intention or default—a new front in the war against commerce on the Web? "It certainly was a form of disruption that inconvenienced people," says Wharton Business School professor Edward Herman, who's been writing about both the global economy and terrorism for years. "But, since we've seen no explicit political message yet, that makes me wonder if these attackers really are what I would call consciousness raisers. But I certainly wouldn't put this in the class of 'terrorist.' If it was an act of protest, they were protesting something that needs protesting."

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