For safety's sake, will United States become its own worst enemy? What others say

Posted: Friday, February 28, 2003

Perhaps you saw the Steven Spielberg-Tom Cruise flick ''Minority Report'' last year. It takes America 50 years into the future, one characterized by high-tech law enforcement that can predict and arrest murderers before they commit their crimes.

Of course, the people at the top abuse their frightening power, ultimately manipulating and corrupting the system to achieve their own selfish ends. The law-abiding become collateral damage, but so what as long as America, generally speaking, is safe? ...

...Currently the U.S. government is developing a system -- called Total Information Awareness -- that would give Uncle Sam access to the medical, financial, travel and telephone records of millions of Americans, in the hopes of targeting terrorists before they strike.

Meanwhile, TIA is headed by John Poindexter, the national security adviser under Ronald Reagan who was convicted of lying to Congress and destroying official documents during the Iran-Contra scandal before those verdicts were overturned on appeal.

That makes not only the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union nervous, but some in Congress. ...

Many Americans have looked the other way since 9-11 as their government held people without charge, denied them access to legal counsel, etc. ... Sure, Ashcroft & Co. may catch the big fish, but they're likely to net lots of little, innocent ones along the way.

We have argued all along that the greatest challenge to the U.S. post-9-11 might not be al-Qaida, but recognizing ourselves and our nation when the smoke clears. That would be the ultimate test of whether the terrorists had won. ...

-- Journal Star, Peoria, Ill. - Feb. 24

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