[LETTERS to the editor]Trampling on civil liberties is terrorismA few months ago, when the New York Times broke the story on the U.S. National Security Agency’s secret domestic eavesdropping program, there was uproar in the press and on Capitol Hill. George Bush’s approval of what the NSA calls a “special collection program” that monitored phone conversations and e-mails ― without warrants ― of about 500 American citizens was met with revulsion among opposition politicians, citizens and even some Republicans. It is an infringement on U.S. civil liberties. The program snooped on people who were under suspicion, even in the absence of evidence ― an illegal act and a violation of human rights.
To begin with, a government shadowing someone without a warrant cannot be justified. In its Jan. 9, 2006 issue, Newsweek, the weekly news magazine, commented: “Bush’s order to the National Security Council, including U.S. citizens, is obviously contrary to the express and implied requirements of federal law that such surveillance of U.S. persons inside the United States [regardless of whether their communications are going abroad] must be preceded by a court order.” If you are critical of Mr. Bush’s actions over Iraq and you were snooped on, it is not a legitimate act of ‘protecting’ the country. This tinkering with presidential power over citizens and innocent foreign civilians would not gain any support. As it was carried out, the U.S. president’s policy as a means to fight a war on terrorism was done illegally.
Snooping on people’s communications without proof of wrongdoing is wrong. It is absurd to suppose that one day someone can just be put under arrest, with no basis for being suspected of committing a crime. The government is actually taking people’s rights away arbitrarily. That does not make a country safe. Newsweek cited some parallels in U.S. history: When the French threatened American sovereignty on the high seas in 1798, John Adams supported the Alien and Sedition Acts, penalizing “traitorous” speech. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. During World War I, Woodrow Wilson allowed officials to prosecute anyone for criticizing the government. During World War II, Franklin Roosevelt allowed wiretapping, and ordered Japanese-Americans to be herded into internment camps.
As Newsweek concludes, none of these steps made the nation safer. Trampling on human rights violates citizens’ liberties. Thus Mr. Bush’s policy of protecting the nation while going around the law and safeguarding the country by jeopardizing civil rights is absolutely unacceptable. There is no greater terrorism than this.
by Lee Hyun-min