type situation here where neighbors are reporting on neighbors,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the Judiciary Committee’s senior Republican. The Washington Post also editorialized against the proposal: “Police cannot routinely enter people’s houses without either permission or a warrant. They [the Justice Department] should not be using utility workers to conduct surveillance they could not lawfully conduct themselves.” Ashcroft retorted that the administration “never proposed cable installers,” but by Aug. 9, 2002, had scaled back the operation to exclude mail carriers, utility workers and others with access to private homes. However, Ashcroft still planned to enlist transportation, trucking, shipping, maritime, and mass transit workers in the effort,
The ACLU warned that the post-Sept. 11 excesses of the Bush administration could undermine democratization in other countries. As the organization wrote to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on June 6, 2002, some other nations “have already begun to treat” the Bush administration’s new anti-terrorism measures “as precedent, model and justification for their own repressive actions.”
Some invasions of privacy, such as the Internet monitoring of people who aren’t suspected of a crime, may seem justified in these troubled times, even benign. Some law-abiding people shrug off these and other Big Brother tactics, such as neighbors reporting on neighbors, on the grounds that they have “nothing to hide.” But how can groups and individuals engage in full and open debate on issues if they need to be concerned that the FBI is listening in or attending their meetings? How can U.S. diplomats and poli-
cymakers encourage the efforts of moderates and progressives in other countries if they have so little faith in the free exercise of expression, religion and assembly at home?
“Political spying is likely to exacerbate vio- lence rather than stop it,” Nadine Strossen reminded the congressional forum in January, recalling the views of a great Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. “Justice Louis Brandeis recog- nized long ago that the First Amendment acts as a safety valve. If those marginalized in our society are free to express their views and engage in political activity, they are less likely to resort to violence. Political spying plays into the hands of anti-government extremist groups, driving them underground and encouraging the fanatics among them to respond with violence.” BUT HOW CAN GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS ENGAGE IN FULL AND OPEN DEBATE ON ISSUES IF THEY NEED TO BE CONCERNED THAT THE FBI IS LISTENING IN?
Most important, as FBI whistleblower Colleen Rowley insisted in a sensational memo to Director Robert Mueller after the attacks, it wasn’t a failure of intelligence- gathering, paraphernalia or authority that kept agencies from “connecting the dots” before Sept. 11, but rather the failure of FBI Headquarters personnel to act on information they received from field agents. Recounting the difficulties faced by agents in Minneapolis, Rowley pointed out that they did have probable cause of criminal activity to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s personal effects. She argued powerfully that it is not more curtailments on individual rights and freedoms that are needed, but officials with the integrity and competence to make effec- tive use of information they already possess.