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Loss of privacy - get used to it

Reported by Chrish - July 26, 2005

There was a recurring theme on The Big Story today 7/26/05, and it seems to be that loss of privacy rights is inevitable in order to support the so-called war on terror.

First correspondent Amy Kellogg reported from London on the recent attacks and the police search for the bombers who got away after the failed July 21st attempts. Police there did not find any bombs in a car which they've seized but they did find chemicals in an apartment building where two of the suspected would-be bombers lived.

Kellogg reported that at least six of the would-be bombers (her term) were born and/or raised in the UK. She asked Tony Blair what is causing these young British citizens to turn so violently against their country? Blair didn't know why, but he feels two things need to be done to combat it: "...one of them, to disallow, to prohibit people from using public forums to smear US or UK, generally Western policy in the Middle East, and the other, to really stick with Middle East policy to ensure that democracy takes hold in the Middle East and in that region generally."

Kellogg described two of the suspects and said police searching the building where one of them lived had found traces of explosives and significant amounts of chemicals. Neighbors were horrified to learn that presumed terrorists were living amongst them, for the most part, but one young man is shown saying "I don't think it's a good idea to attack the tube and places where people are travelling to and from work because that's civilians, isn't it. But they should attack people like the Houses of Parliament, they should attack, for example, 10 Downing Street..." Kellogg, apparently surprised to be back on camera, says "Unbelievable, Jane, and this sort of rhetoric in the future (her emphasis) could definitely land someone in jail because Tony Blair and his government (my emphasis) want very much to put forth stronger anti-terrorist legislation in the autumn that would make even indirect incitement to terrorism a criminal offense."

Comment: Shades of Ari Fleischer, telling us we's better watch what we say. Are the British people OK with this, or is "Tony Blair and his government" playing king?

In the teaser leading to the next break, Skinner said, above a banner reading "Safety vs Privacy", "It is a question of public safety versus privacy; police are conducting random searches of bags at mass transit stations in this country. Does that violate your civil rights? Does it matter, if it stops terrorists?"

Judge Andrew Napolitano joined her later in the show to answer those questions. She introduced the segment with "Mass transit systems across the country have of course been on high alert since the 7/7 attacks in London. In New York City, for example, police have been searching the bags of people getting on trains and buses. You've probably heard about this. And if the passenger says 'no', they're not allowed to get on board. Can police do that? Let's ask the judge."

Napolitano answers "Well, they can, because they're the police, and they do it, and in a time of crisis or perceived crisis people will look the other way when their liberties are disregarded. May they legally do it, judges will have to tell us. But here's what the law says: the law says the police cannot stop you, cannot look inside your clothing or your bags, unless they have some suspicion about you, not some general suspicion but suspicion about the person they stopped."

Skinner asks what if it's random, say every tenth person gets searched? (Comment: that's not random per se, that's an easily discernible pattern.)

Napolitano says "that might eliminate allegations of racial profiling, but it wouldn't eliminate the violation of privacy, which the Constitution preserves. That's the legal argument; the practical argument - and of course security experts know this better than I - they have said and some have told me that this is an ineffective way to stop people. When the police are looking in a bag (looks down at desk) their eyes are not on others who are around the train who might do damage. If someone is crazy enough to kill himself in order to blow up a bomb in a subway, he's going to find a way to get around showing his bag to the police."

Jane brought the conversation back to the legal aspect, citing the 4th Amendment against unreasonable searches, but asks if it couldn't be reasonable to say we're trying to prevent a terror attack in this country, that's why I'm searching your bag?

Napolitano says "that's the argument the government will make, but the Supreme Court has said there's a threshold, there's a point below which the government can't go in order to use its power against people, no matter how good the government's goal is. And that low threshold is suspicion about the person they're going to stop. So, you may say, what are the police to do? The police prefer not to be looking in people's bags. If you ask police who are in the subways, they'd rather be looking in people's eyes, at people's motions, as they move about the subway station and on the train, rather than wasting their time looking in the bag."

Skinner says it seems to her that people don't seem to mind; she hasn't heard many complaints.

Napolitano agrees that no, they don't, in fact he heard Mayor Bloomberg saying this morning that people are volunteering to have their bags checked.

Comment: The loss of privacy and submission to government invasion is not what "freedom" and "liberty" is all about. If some fool wants to expose his belongings to a police search in order to feel patriotic I suppose he can, but I prefer my patriotism the old-fashioned way. This appears to me to be a first step in softening "people's" attitudes towards more government intrusion, gearing up for the inevitable showdown over abortion rights and losses of other rights coming down the neo-con turnpike.

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