COMMENTARY | Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers most often quoted said, "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent." Imagine how Jefferson would feel about the latest covert activity of the New York Police Department.
This week, the Associated Press acquired possession of a 60-page report compiled by the NYPD that is said to have been a guidebook to Muslims in Newark, N.J., as reported by the Associated Press. Were the people investigated suspected on any wrongdoing? No. They were suspected of being Muslim -- and many of them are American citizens.
You didn't read that incorrectly: New York City police went to Newark in 2007 to scope out businesses and mosques and individuals known or thought to be Muslim or associated with Muslims, according to the Associated Press. Although we can all at least in part understand the motives that lead the NYPD to conduct such an "investigation" -- the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center -- we should be appalled at their application of the law.
But wait -- which law is it exactly that allows the New York City police -- or any police -- to investigate and record individuals' actions and activities when there is no suspected crime? Further, which law is it that allows any law enforcement agency to outside its jurisdiction to do so? It is concerning enough that a law enforcement agency is able to "spy" on its own citizens -- what other word could be used for such surveillance -- but it also goes outside its geographical boundaries to do so.
When activity like this is allowed to go unchecked, every American is at risk for invasion of their privacy and the right to be a free citizen unless a law has been broken. The potential to break a law is not enough to justify this type of intrusion.
Is it the USA Patriot Act that gives law enforcement this latitude? Whatever it is that makes this type of activity legal by those who are supposed to "protect and serve" needs to be changed -- and sooner than later.
Smack dab in the middle of the baby boomer generation, L.L. Woodard is a proud resident of "The Red Man" state. With what he hopes is an everyman's view of life's concerns both in his state and throughout the nation, Woodard presents facts and opinions based on common-sense solutions.
- Thomas Jefferson