The Oscars for Intelligence

This post, written by Jayne Lyn Stahl, originally appeared on Lady Jayne's Blog

A U.S. attorney, police commissioner, members of the transit authority, and local law enforcement, in New York today, participated in a press conference that rivals the academy awards in their determination to praise each other for foiling an alleged "conspiracy" to plant explosives to blow up aircraft, terminals, and gas lines in one of the nation's busiest, and best loved airports, JFK. While no explosives, or any concrete evidence, has yet to turn up, the investigation into this plan for a massive strike against a major U.S. airport appears to be a slam dunk for an administration aiming to make its citizens more aware of the prospects for "terrorist attacks;" arguably, more of these foiled plots will come to light as the presidential race draws closer.

Does this sound cynical? Well, let me assure you that, having been born and raised only miles from JFK, few could be happier that the 18 month plot haa been averted, and that three suspects have been taken into custody on conspiracy charges. Abdul Kadir, Kareem Ibrahim, and Russell Defreitas are being held, and a fourth man, Abdel Nur is being sought in Guyana. Notably, Mr. Defreitas, a former airport employee, is a U.S. citizen. And, while we m ay take a collective sign of relief that the nation's financial mecca has, yet again, been spared, it is socially irresponsible not to ask if Defreitas will meet the same fate as Jose Padilla, or to ignore the fact that, while precluding another terrorist act, we're still no closer to apprehending the usual suspects, and understanding the root causes of a global wildfire of hatred of U.S. foreign expansionism, and corporate gluttony. Rest assured that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would be thrilled, too, to see another attack on a beloved city fail, but to use a so-called war on terror to eviscerate an American citizen of his constitutional rights is not what the framers had in mind.

Moreover, while lately the administration talks more about a growing threat from al Qaeda in Iraq, yet to be addressed is the harsh reality of how our government's policies are fanning the fire of universal contempt for our landmarks, institutions, and people.

While the four alleged to have spent more than a year hatching this latest plot which, had it happened, would have been a devastating blow to aircraft, terminals, and fuel lines, they did not even possess the means to implement ; authorities moved in, and brought three into custody based on its own surveillance, and the belief that one suspect had been planning to travel. So, picture it: law enforcement surveillance of suspects using the Internet to monitor activities of Kennedy Airport; we have surveillance of surveillance. What happens when the watchers are watching the watched who are watching the watchers? No one is looking into the root causes, but only the outward manifestations. More importantly, what happens to free movement on the Internet when government authorities are allowed to track that movement, at will, based on evidence, however dubious, that a "conspiracy" is taking place. I know, I know; we're not suppsed to worry about our First Amendment rights when threatened with an attack on our shores...right?
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