IN the aftermath of the April 19 Oklahoma City bombing, Rep. Charles Schumer (D) of New York and 25 other members of Congress have rushed to sponsor the Clinton administration's 1995 Omnibus Counterterrorism Act. If ratified, it will give the president unfettered power to blacklist any organization in the world as ''terrorist,'' and make it a crime for US citizens to support even the peaceful activities of that group.
Civil libertarians like David Cole of Georgetown University have pointed out that the ban on charitable contributions for lawful activities in all likelihood violates the Constitution, as would a provision to create McCarthy-style deportation courts in which federal prosecutors could use secret evidence against immigrants suspected of links to terrorists.
An even more fundamental problem with the proposed legislation is that terrorism itself is a murky, patently political concept. The administration -- like most who use the term -- apply it with neither uniformity nor consistency to, say, parallel acts of political violence.
Turn, for example, to ''Terrorism Defined'' in the administration's proposed legislation. One finds that terrorism ''means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets.''
''Terrorism activity'' is listed as: ''the use of any ... explosive, firearm, or other weapon ... with intent to endanger ... the safety of one or more individuals or to cause substantial damage to property.''
This classification would seem to apply so broadly -- encompassing even actions by a good many governments -- as to render it meaningless.
Consider for a moment the two major conflicts in the Middle East. In Turkey, Kurdish rebels who attack civilians are considered terrorists. Turkish soldiers who bomb and clear out Kurdish villages are not. President Clinton, in fact, approves their brutalities as an understandable response to (Kurdish) ''terror.''