This morning, Juan Cole writes in Salon about plans working their way through the Justice Dept. that would fundamentally change the way the FBI can investigate American citizens and legal residents. Forget “probable cause” that someone has committed a crime as the basis for opening a file. The new rules, which are set to be implemented next month, allow agents to establish a terrorist profile or pattern of behavior and attributes and, on the basis of that profile, start investigating an individual or group. Agents would be permitted to ask “open-ended questions” concerning the activities of Muslim Americans and Arab-Americans. A person's travel and occupation, as well as race or ethnicity, could be grounds for opening a national security investigation.
The problem is that the FBI and Justice Dept. usually acts like The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight in combatting terrorism. The 14 Miami "terrorists" who actually only wanted new boots and a bit of cash, and the Detroit "jihadists" who were acquitted because there was no evidence of anything remotely connected to terrorism in their possession shows the folly of profiling and the incompetence of G-men as they bumble and stumble around fighting the so-called "war on terror" like characters from a Laurel and Hardy movie.
The new Justice Dept. plans should be more aptly called "The Government's War on American's Rights and Liberties."
The problem always has been that, as the FBI follows its decades-long pattern of ignoring the Constitution and any semblance of recognising civil liberties, innocent people find their lives disrupted at best and ruined at worst. Remember the FBI helping Joe McCarthy chase "Commies" in the 1950s, or spying on peace activitists in the 1960s and 1970s, or chasing down names on Nixon's "enemies list"?
Now it's the turn of people with brown-ish hued skin and funny sounding names who practice a "suspect" religion to fall under the cataract-blurred gaze of America’s law enforcers.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey joins his illustrious predecessor Alberto Gonzales in helping Bush and Cheney continue to shred what, in 2001, Bush called "just a Goddamned piece of paper." He meant the United States Constitution.
*When I was young, oh so much younger than today, I believed that the United States would become completely unhinged at some point in my lifetime. This...