If you’re not a terrorist you don’t have anything to worry about – yeah right.

by | Feb 8, 2006 | Stress Blog | 1 comment

Jim Bovard, author of Attention Deficit Democracy explains in the LA Times that to be a terrorist is to be anyone the state feels like messing with.

President Bush and Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales insist that the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping of American citizens is a necessary “terrorist surveillance program.” And polls show that most Americans support permitting the government to tap the phone calls and e-mails of those considered “suspicious.”

But what exactly does that mean? A close look suggests that the feds’ definition of a “suspected terrorist” may not meet the laugh test.

In the mass roundup of more than 1,200 people shortly after 9/11, for example, it took very little for a Muslim or Arab illegal immigrant to be considered a “suspected terrorist,” according to a 2003 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general. Arab students were locked up as suspected terrorists for working at pizza parlors (in violation of their student visas); a Pakistani immigrant was jailed after attracting attention because he and his Queens housemates let their grass grow long and hung their underwear out to dry on the fence; and one Muslim was arrested because “he had taken a roll of film to be developed and the film had multiple pictures of the World Trade Center on it but no other Manhattan sites,” the inspector general noted. Some FBI agents were even instructed to look in phone books to find Arab- or Muslim-sounding names, according to Newsweek columnist Steven Brill.

Ever seen Brazil?

Update: From Bovard’s interview with Aaron Zelman: “As long as enough people can be frightened, then all people can be rolled. That’s how it works in a democratic system.”

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