Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The terrorism of watchlists

By Libby

Nobody would deny that terrorism is a real and dangerous problem. That's been true for decades but we didn't worry about that here in the USA because we never saw any really huge displays nor did we suffer through the daily grind of small attacks. It was easy to be brave about it. Then 9/11 changed everything and it became all too easy to be afraid. Now, as we look at what has happened to us in the last seven years it's clear we've allowed ourselves to become terrorized by the thought of terror. The quality of our life has been severely diminished without the terrorists having to lift a finger. No where is that more apparent than in the meek acceptance of database surveillance and watchlists.
One man went into a Glen Burnie, Md., Toyota dealership to buy a car, only to be told that a name check revealed he was on a U.S. Treasury Department watchlist of suspected terrorists and drug dealers. He had to be "checked for tattoos," he said, to make sure he wasn't the suspect.

An 18-year-old found he could not open an account to accept credit card payments for his fledgling technology consulting business because his name was similar to that of a Libyan official on the watchlist.

A former U.S. Navy officer who served in the Persian Gulf and whose father was killed in the Korean War when he was a child, found himself locked out of his PayPal account because his name was similar to one on the watchlist.
The guy who couldn't buy a car was a former police officer. I'm certain there's probably hundreds of similar stories and that's just this list. We've all read about dissenters who are clearly not terrorists having been denied entry to the country and young children who can't board planes because of nofly lists, yet people are willing to buy into the idea that these lists are somehow making us safer. The crazy part is a real terrorist would no doubt find a way to avoid being flagged.

It's a dangerous world and no one can protect us from sudden death. We can't outsource our safety to a piece of paper. Ask any family whose loved one was murdered by an ex-spouse, while holding a restraining order in their hand. All these lists do is endanger us more by fostering complacency in the face of the growing infringement of the government in our private lives, ironically leaving us in a position where we're destroying our freedoms to protect them from being destroyed by phantom terrorists.

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