Trading Freedom for Security: A Very Slippery Slope

Submitted by Andy Bridge on

The F.B.I. maintains a terrorist watch list that is intended to keep Americans safe from terrorist attacks. This is a laudable goal. But how much freedom are Americans willing to surrender in order to enjoy this supposed increase in security? The answer appears to be a great deal.

New information about the government’s terrorist watch list shows that if your name appears on the list, even if a court clears you of any crimes or if any charges against you are dropped by the government, your name can remain on the watch list provided that  agents have a “reasonable suspicion” that you might have ties to terrorism.

In other words, instead of living under the protection of the “presumption of innocence”, we now must defend ourselves against the “assumption of guilt”. Our constitutional rights are turned upside down and we are faced with having to prove our innocence to un-elected and unaccountable federal employees.

The members of the F.B.I.’s Terrorist Screening Center are charged with maintaining this list. They share the names on it with other federal agencies who use this information to screen aircraft passengers, people who are trying to enter the country through border crossings and those who apply for visas.

But the sharing of the information on the terrorist watch list doesn’t stop there. Your local police will also have access to the names on this list when they make a routine traffic stop. So, how do they get access to this list? They get it through the Department of Homeland Security’s regional “fusion centers”. There is a fusion center located right up in Concord, NH. http://www.nh.gov/safety/information-analysis-center/

Fusion centers are supposed to allow for information sharing between federal agencies. The problem is that not only do they get information on individual American citizens from the federal government; they also get them from their “partners in the private sector”.

Based upon information provided by private groups on individual American citizens, federal fusion centers have labeled members of the following groups as possible threats to national security:

  • Muslim lobbyists
  • Both pro and anti-abortion activists
  • Environmental activists
  • Tea Party groups
  • Second Amendment supporters.
  • Anti-death penalty and anti-war activists
  • Third party voters and even Ron Paul supporters

As we get closer and closer to choosing a presidential candidate to run against President Obama next year and perhaps even more importantly, as we get closer to electing a Governor for New Hampshire, perhaps we should be asking those running just where they stand on the difficult balance between freedom and security.

Please check out these sources for more information:

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/28/us/even-those-cleared-of-crimes-can-stay-on-fbis-terrorist-watch-list.html

http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2008/september/tsc_092908

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_center