On Assata Shakur

Against the Current, No. 165, July/August 2013

IN ONE OF those all too frequent outrages where the facts of the case mean nothing, the FBI has placed political refugee Assata Shakur, now 65, who has lived in Cuba since receiving asylum there in 1984 following her prison escape, on its “fugitive terrorist” list. Among other things, this deprives “terrorism” of any specific meaning.

Shakur is a revolutionary militant who was convicted in 1977 — under the most dubious circumstances — in the killing of a New Jersey state trooper after a traffic stop in which she was herself shot with her hands up. (For background see www.assatashakur.org and http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-05-08/lifestyle/39114982_1_state-trooper-black-power-cubareference.) She had never engaged in violent acts against civilian targets — a bedrock definition of terrorism — and although charged with escaping from confinement, she’d never previously been listed as a “terrorist.”

Why now? Whatever political motivation may underlie this fraudulent listing — perhaps an attempt to harass Cuba, an effort to look tough after the FBI’s alleged failure to track Tamerlan Tsarnaev before the Boston Marathon bombing (a real terrorist attack), or some inter-bureaucratic factionalism — it’s another sinister sign of a drive to subordinate legal process, democratic liberties and human rights to a rapidly expanding, never defined and never ending “war” against real or invented terror threats.

July/August 2013, ATC 165