According to U.S. News & World Report, the Bush administration’s fear that brown people might have the bomb apparently trumps its respect of the 4th Amendment.
In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts.
The article names Seattle as one of the other cities in which mosques, offices and private residences have been monitored without warrants or court orders. How extensive is the President’s secret, domestic surveillance program? One gets the feeling that recent revelations are only the tip of the iceberg… and it’s an awfully chilly feeling.
Now, I’m not dissing the federal government for being vigilant about nuclear terrorism; many security experts agree that there is more than an outside chance that terrorists might eventually try to set off some kind of nuclear device in a major American city. My concern is our government’s growing habit of ignoring our constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
If the federal authorities had probable cause, surely warrants could have been obtained (though I’m not so sure that being Muslim is probable cause in itself.) But this administration no longer even bothers to ask the courts for permission before invading an American citizen’s privacy. And just as disturbing as this lack of respect for our basic constitutional rights, is the reported threat of retaliation against Justice Department officials who questioned the operation’s legality.
In defending warrantless domestic surveillance, President Bush claims that his powers as a “wartime” Commander in Chief trump those of Congress, or even the Bill of Rights… a legal philosophy that smacks of dictatorship. In Bush’s post 9/11 America, U.S. citizens can now be spied on without warrant, held indefinitely without charge, tortured in custody, and tried without being given access to the “top secret” evidence against them.
Bush once accused the terrorists of “hating our freedom.” Well, a major tactic in his “War on Terror” seems to be to take away this motivation.