FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2013
TERRORISM CHEAP SHOTS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Let’s assume Peter King wasn’t just trying to politically exploit the Boston Marathon attacks when he called on law enforcement to focus on “the Muslim community and increase surveillance there.” King, a Republican from New York, is chair of the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. “We can’t be bound by political correctness,” he went on. “I think we need more police and more surveillance in the communities where the threat is coming from, whether it’s the Irish community with the Westies, or the Italian community with the Mafia or the Islamic community with the Islamic terrorists.”
Would someone remind him that while many of us will never be accused of political correctness, maybe we all should be held back by the idea that the U.S. is not an authoritarian state, that we should all be able to count on some privacy without Big Brother monitoring our every move and utterance. Already that’s a shaky premise, but singling out certain ethnic groups for more invasive intrusion runs counter to the whole "Yearning to be Free" concept of this nation. What he’s advocating could mean that because of the Mafia, there should spying on all Italian-Americans. For that matter, since some members of Congress have engaged in criminal activity, perhaps we should bug the homes, offices and cars of all members. Would a next step be to follow the World War II model of Japanese-American internment?
At this point, someone will interject that whatever is necessary must be done to make us less vulnerable. That certainly would be wonderful as long as it fits into our way of life. Unfortunately, democracy can be really inconvenient. Sometimes it gets in the way of maintaining order.
What’s fascinating is that some of those who advocate such stern measures are the very same people who constantly rail against government intrusion when it comes to matters like public health and financial regulations. But they don’t hesitate to pander to those who are understandably frightened by terrorism.
The GOP senators and representatives who signed a letter demanding that Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the alleged Boston bomber, be declared an enemy combatant reflect that same mindset, coupled with a dose of political opportunism. They argued that by treating him as a civilian criminal, valuable intelligence might be lost when he is informed he has the right to counsel. Happily, the administration brushed off the letter, but not before antagonizing some onthe left, where there was a clamor over the authorities’ plans to hold off on Mirandizing, utilizing the “Public Safety Exception,” until they had squeezed out whatever information he could provide about accomplices, support from terrorist organizations, any bombs left behind and, of course, plans for future attacks. He’s been Mirandized now, much to the consternation of those who believe he has no rights, even though he’s a U.S. citizen.
Never mind that what they proposed was blatantly unconstitutional; it gave them a chance to play tough for the folks back home — particularly Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is sweating his re-election campaign next year in South Carolina. Apparently, the assumption is that those assigned to interrogate this 19-year-old aren’t capable of getting him to talk. Some are the same ones who defend torture. Frankly, why even bother grilling him to build a case? Because of the mountain of evidence from surveillance, his statements simply are not necessary for the prosecution. If he can’t be convicted with that, then somebody needs to take a serious look at our legal system.
The government needs to proceed against him in such an impeccably fair way that the message goes out to the world that American justice is all we claim it to be. Once the Tsarnaev brothers made their panicky mistakes, law enforcement quickly pounced. The trial should now set a shining example. As for our politicians, still again, they’re setting a bad example.
© 2013 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.