Friday, August 20, 2004

An index of where we are in civil liberties in America: I was listening to a talk show on the radio yesterday which featured, among others, the executive director of the ACLU, a former Justice Department attorney, Nathan Sales, and Sarah Bardwell, an intern with those notorious terrorists, the American Friends Service Committee, who had had FBI agents snooping around her house for hours. In the interviews, it became clear that they were trying to investigate possible terrorist activity at the RNC -- but these folks had no plans to be there.

Sales tried to defend this by saying that hey, the FBI has to follow up all credible tips. But this was a tip about future violent activities in New York by someone who wasn't even going there. When asked how this could pass the laugh test, he said

I'm not sure that the tip is false... We don't know if the tip was "Sarah and her friends were planning on committing criminal activity", which is obviously not the case -- especially since they weren't even planning on being at the convention -- or on the other hand whether the tip was that Sarah and her friends may know about criminal activity that other people who are planning on going to the convention may be planning to commit...

And he said this after hearing from Bardwell herself that the FBI spent less time talking to them than taking down license place numbers and physical descriptions of bicycles and the like -- all of which had absolutely no relevance once it became clear that they weren't going.

But hey, the laugh test may be a discarded relic of pre-9/11 days. Witness Michael Froomkin's summary of the case of Abdullah al Kidd, a U.S. citizen who had his life utterly destroyed -- marriage broken, foreign study fellowship lost, left unemployable -- by a sixteen-month material witness detention because, the government argued, they needed his testimony to demonstrate that someone else had overstayed his visa. Again, that wouldn't pass the laugh test -- which obviously hadn't been applied by the judge who signed off on this. But hey, he was never put on trial himself, so no due process rights can have been violated. Neat, huh?

But you can understand the government's concern. There are terrorists everywhere. Even in the Senate -- Teddy Kennedy recently found himself on the terrorist suspect "no fly list", and it took three weeks and multiple phone calls straight to Tom Ridge to get him off.

Just remember -- a terrorist is anyone they don't like. And all terrorists are immediate, deadly threats. Then it all makes sense...


Anonymous Anonymous said...


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7:29 PM  

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