Warning Shots


Sunday’s warning of an attack against big banks and insurance companies had the ring of more authority than usual, but was vague—not to mention years old. Everybody knows by now that Al Qaeda is interested in blowing up symbols of America’s financial might.

If Al Qaeda is readying an attack, the heightened alert immediately achieved one of its goals, driving the price of oil through the roof and placing more stress on the inflating economy. The oil business faces disruption around the globe, with sabotage slowing Iraq output and scandal disrupting Yukos, the Russian giant. Asian stock markets tanked over the weekend, and airline and insurance stocks took a dive. The price for September crude reached a record $43.94 on Monday at the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Whatever happens, it’s going to make protests in New York at the Republican National Convention more difficult than ever. If banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions are going to require protection, the cops are apt to be taking a narrow and hard-line view of protests—especially when the marchers pass in front of Madison Square Garden, and at rally points on Chambers Street, near the financial district. Historically, the FBI has always viewed protests against government authority as the work of anarchists and/or Communists. And true to form, the FBI today is associating anti-war protesters with terrorists. The agency’s Boston field office memo of July 23 suggested, on the basis of pretty flimsy evidence, that far-right “patriot” and racist groups were infiltrating Boston so as to attack media vehicles. A former FBI agent, who claims he was muzzled by his superiors, told The New York Times over the weekend that his attempts to warn the FBI top echelon of the danger from domestic militia-type groups had been ignored. True or not, all this casts more and more suspicion on anti-Bush and anti-war protesters. If not terrorists themselves, they may be viewed by the government as harboring terrorists.

The prospect of being arrested in a police dragnet in New York and charged with aiding terrorists—knowingly or unwittingly—may well put a damper on people turning out in the streets. And if not that, the military and police are sure to make a show of heavy weaponry in New York in their efforts to protect delegates and the president from possible terrorist attack. That means a display of deadly force in the form of sharpshooters on rooftops, attack dogs, and assault weapons—not just symbols, but locked and loaded.