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Uncivil Liberties

If you are looking for terrorists, common sense suggests going to where they hang out, not to places where they are unlikely to be found.

By and 6.19.02

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When Willie Sutton, the notorious bank robber, was asked why he robbed banks, his elegant but simple answer was, "Because that's where the money is." Willie Sutton was smarter than our liberal friends.

Accompanied by much squawking from civil libertarians, the FBI has finally been allowed to go into mosques in order to gather information about terrorists. Since the aftermath of the Watergate scandals in 1972, and the regime of Attorney General Edward Levi, the hands of the FBI have been tied by a series of nonsensical regulations. These regulations have had a cumulatively erosive influence on their sleuthing abilities, this unfortunate situation undoubtedly contributing, in some degree, to the World Trade Center intelligence failures.

After the slaughter of 2,823 people by militant Muslim terrorists, it is difficult to imagine a reasoned objection to intelligence officers attempting to collect material or clues at mosques. If you are looking for terrorists, common sense suggests going to where they hang out, not to places where they are unlikely to be found. Looking for Muslim terrorists saying their prayers at a Swedish Bar Mitzvah would make about as much sense as going shopping for a garter belt in a furniture store.

The specter of racial profiling similarly ties the hands of authorities at airports. The fact that 15 of the 19 terrorists who attacked America were from Saudi Arabia surely hasn't escaped the notice of the FBI. Yet, in a conspicuous show of non-racial profiling, at the airports we see obvious Middle Easterners having the perfunctory metal detector walk-through, while 80-year-old Jewish grandmothers going to Florida are frisked and given the third degree.

If the militant Muslims ever wanted to use an 80-year-old grandmother as a suicide bomber (which makes more sense than using a 16-year-old girl who has her whole life ahead of her), they would have to dress her up as a terrorist in order to get her on the plane. As a matter of fact, looking at the newly hired luggage inspectors, we might be safer if the passengers frisked the inspectors, rather than vice versa.

We read in the daily newspapers about the various bomb detection apparatuses the airports utilize. There are detailed descriptions of the good and bad points of each device, together with a timetable as to their installation. Did it ever occur to the government people that the terrorists also read the newspapers?

When we attacked Iraq for the first time, we slowly built up our troop strength until we had 500,000 men in place, ready to pounce. The TV nightly news showed pictures of the tanks and other equipment arriving that would ultimately be used in the assault on Iraq. As if that were not enough information for Saddam Hussein, the programs showed film footage of each particular type of equipment actually in use, discussed its capabilities and how it would be deployed. In case the Iraqi generals were watching the food network when all of this was on and missed something, the TV stations then had all sorts of retired military men and specialists summarizing things and explaining exactly what our tactics would be. Overnight, a cottage industry of retired military people was created. Instead of retiring from the army and going to old-age homes, these men immediately became TV military consultants. Retired admirals, generals, and CIA experts explained on nightly news shows precisely, point by point, what we would do when we attacked Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein, although he had all of this information, unfortunately had nowhere to go and could do nothing but sit there watching television, like a naughty kid waiting for his father to come home from work to spank him.

Today however, the terrorists have much more flexibility. They can adjust their methods to get around the limitations of the particular bomb-detection machines being used at the airports. If that were not enough, they know the timetables of how security at the airports is going to be increased, who is doing the training, recruiting, etc. If a terrorist were looking for work between bombings, he would know exactly where to apply for a job as a luggage inspector at the airports.

The government will now fingerprint and photograph visitors to America from Middle Eastern countries. For some time, visitors from Sudan, Libya, Iraq and Iran have been fingerprinted and photographed. Now the list has been expanded to include countries such as Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The idea is that the finger prints are then instantly checked to see if they match the prints of any terrorists who had been in the country. Aside from the question of why should there be any terrorists in the country whom the authorities let go, if one had been here and then fled the country leaving his fingerprints behind, why would he be dumb enough to came back?

Every degenerate and every 15-year-old kid has access to all kinds of pornography on the Internet. Their computers overheat and have to take cold showers because of what comes out of them. Bombers are exchanging recipes, and the latest fashions in explosives are being passed around on the Internet, and yet, until recently, FBI agents were not allowed to turn on the Internet, even if they had their parents' consent. Happily, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced new regulations that allowed the FBI to cruise the Internet.

The American Civil Liberties Union is up in arms over these recent rulings, thereby basically becoming a trade union for terrorists. But the terrorists don't even have to pay dues to receive their benefits. Their dues are paid by tax-deductible contributions to the ACLU.

The only people who have had their civil liberties trampled on are not the terrorists. It is you and me. Isn't it time we also had a union?

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About the Author

Jackie Mason is a comedian.

About the Author

Raoul Felder is a lawyer.