Wiretapping fails to protect Americans
By Saffiya Shillo
Why does the government need to skip the justice system to obtain permission to invade the privacy of an American citizen? What’s the goal? To catch the terrorists before they strike? To make sure that people who appear suspicious are monitored? Wiretapping without the proper system of checks and balances does not change that goal. It will only serve to put in place a reckless abuse of power. The fact that telecommunication companies will be offered immunity and anonymity in dispensing of our private information is incomprehensible. It’s un-American. The Protect American Act that Congress will be voting on this week does not protect America. It should not become a permanent law.
Terrorists for the most part send messages directly to each other through their websites and other accessed and monitored electrical systems properly tapped into by our intelligence agencies. The system works and has netted results. Sometimes the messages seem to be addressing our government directly and the American people too. It’s almost like they realize we have the ability to intercept.
After September 11, we found out that Bin Laden told us he was going to strike. In addition, information about how the use of airplanes to commit a terrorist strike was revealed. This information went through all the intelligence agencies and straight to the White House well before September 11, 2001.
What is our relationship as Americans to this era fear and terror? Do we sign away our civil rights? Do we racially profile our population? Do we lose our sense of freedom, justice and peace? “They hate us for our way of life.” Isn’t that how the story goes? If you believe that, they won’t have to hate us much longer. Civil rights are eroding faster than a blink of the eye.
The burning question is “why?” Why do we find ourselves here in this situation? A situation, where the debate on the loss of our privacy as citizens in a free society is not really taking place the way it should be. This is perhaps the most perplexing question of all.
Fear rules. Government needs to be working diligently to correct and never repeat the mistakes they made previously. A blanket order to eavesdrop will no doubt create a population of mistakenly accused and tried. Misdirecting resources in the process will result. The time and money lost could be used to properly employ and train intelligence agencies. We don’t even have enough intelligence personnel that speak the specific language and dialects of suspected terrorists.
Attempts on the part of our elected officials should be directed towards foreign policy not eavesdropping. They vote blindly on foreign policy which breeds hate for America. Many of these policies only serve special interests that have nothing to do with the well-being of Americans or America. That’s why “they hate us.” And, it’s not to say that we are to blame for the actions of extremists who cowardly kill innocents, but a look into the perception of America in the world. It could actually shed some light on how to stop terrorists and terrorism from growing.
The whole notion of warrant less wiretapping touted by proponents of this Act as a cure-all in the war on terror is just lame. When enough of us get a knock on the door followed by handcuffs and a journey into the world of secret evidence and prisons for exchanging a conversation laced with words that are taken out of context, it will be too late. This Act must be repealed.
(Saffiya Shillo is a peace activist, domestic violence/sexual assault consultant and cultural sensitivity trainer on Muslim/Arab issues. Copyright Arab Writers Group, http://www.ArabWritersGroup.com).