Terrorism at the Atlanta Games Olympics continue: Clinton responds to "evil act" by seeking tougher laws.

July 29, 1996

TERRORISM, that hydra-headed monster, has an capacity to kill, to hurt, to frighten, to enrage and eventually to stiffen the resolve of the specific victims or larger society against which it is aimed.

Because the means for inflicting appalling damage are so easily available to sophisticated guerrillas as well as lone loonies, it is feckless to assume a magic method can to found to stop terrorism. But that in no way should inhibit government from fighting back in ways that still protect American freedoms.

The tragedy at the Olympic Games in Atlanta over the weekend was but the latest of a numbing series that have forced Americans to confront terrorism as never before.

In 1993, it was the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York by persons connected with a fanatic Muslim cult. In 1994, it was the destruction of the federal building in Oklahoma City, allegedly by home-grown rightwing militants. Just weeks ago, came the truck-bomb attack on U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia. Within the past fortnight came the unsolved destruction of TWA Flight 800, with 230 persons aboard.

And now -- Atlanta. The FBI says it suspects the perpetrator was a white male who called in a 911 warning 18 minutes before the blast that killed one person and injured 111 others. Until an arrest is made, all is conjecture.

What is not conjecture is that the Atlanta terrorist, in trying to cast a pall of horror on a magnificent international spectacle of sport, chose a resilient adversary. For there was no disruption in the competition of 10,000 athletes from all over the world. Spectators and host citizens were saddened and apprehensive but determined that the Games will go on.

So they shall, just as they continued in Munich in 1972 even after Palestinian guerrillas set off a heart-stopping hostage situation that led to the death of 11 Israeli athletes.

President Clinton has responded to this "evil act of terror" by calling in legislative leaders to discuss strengthening counter-terrorism legislation, especially by expanded federal wiretapping powers. These are not new requests; they have been rebuffed by civil libertarians on the right and the left. But surely the increased onslaught of terrorism warrants another look.

Pub Date: 7/29/96

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