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Government yells "Terrorism" to justify TSA procedures

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AP
An airline passenger is patted down by a TSA agent
at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Monday.

The public fury over the new TSA airport security measures intensified this week, with harrowing stories of a breast cancer survivor forced to show her prosthetic breast and a male passenger whose urostomy bag leaked urine all over him when it was roughly manhandled by airport agents during a "patdown." So what does the Federal Government do to address this growing public anger? That's easy: the playbook is well established:

White House: Terrorists Have Discussed Use of Prosthetics to Conceal Explosives

U.S. intelligence has picked up terrorists discussing the use of prosthetic or medical devices to conceal explosives, sources tell ABC News.

The revelation about the intelligence, which is not new but relevant to debate over new security measures at airports, comes as the White House today acknowledged that the implementation of the security procedures has not gone perfectly.

This is the all-justifying, cure-all solution for every problem: government officials run to the nearest media outlet they can find and anonymously scream "TERRORISM." No evidence is needed; the anonymity precludes all accountability; fear levels are quickly ratcheted up; and everything the Government wants to do then becomes justifiable in its name. That's the frightened, authoritarian society we've allowed ourselves to become. Speaking of journalists who dutifully disseminate whatever fear-mongering claims their anonymous government friends tell them to write . . . .

The New York Daily News today excitedly trumpets the debut appearance of. . . .The Next Anwar al-Awalki:

Jamaican Imam Abdullah el-Faisal wants to be next terror big, U.S. fears

Counterterrorism agents in New York and Washington are keeping tabs on a Jamaican imam whose death-spewing sermons in English raise fears he'll radicalize American Muslims.

The NYPD intelligence division, CIA and FBI are concerned Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal is becoming a new Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni Al Qaeda cleric who went from preaching to plotting.

"El-Faisal is focused on propaganda," one U.S. counterterror official in Washington told the Daily News. "But the last few years, he's dabbled in operational things like recruitment and facilitation."

He also inspired Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and failed airplane underwear bomber Farouk Abdulmutallab.

"His reach goes far beyond Jamaica," the U.S. official said. "He's trying to expand his network in Africa and Asia". . . .El-Faisal is charismatic like Awlaki, but "willing to say things that would make even Awlaki turn pale," said terror expert Evan Kohlmann.

For those of you who support Obama's assassination program aimed at Awlaki: what do you think? Have we read enough anonymous government claims in the newspaper yet about how el-Faisal "has dabbled in operational things like recruitment and facilitation" to cheer for his eradication, or do we still need a couple more articles like this one anonymously accusing him of being a Real Terrorist? Maybe we need Leon Panetta going on the TV to decree that he's guilty in order to really persuade us, followed by a couple of incriminating Wikipedia entries, and then the President is good to go: drones away? That's how we now determine guilt, isn't it?

Note that the government official to whom these intrepid, adversarial reporters gave anonymity accused the new Awlaki of being guilty of exactly that which has been repeatedly been blamed on the Old Awlaki: "He also inspired Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and failed airplane underwear bomber Farouk Abdulmutallab." Maybe that can just be the all-purpose accusation which justifies a whole litany of assassinations: anytime we want to kill someone, we just have a government official anonymously claim in the newspaper that he inspired the Undewear Bomber and Fort Hood Shooter. After all, there's no limit on how many people can "inspire" someone.

All of this underscores the ambivalence I've had in watching the TSA controversy unfold. In one sense, this has all the ingredients of the last decade's worth of Terrorism exploitation: fear-based increases in pointless though invasive government power, surveillance and privacy infringements; further training the citizenry to mindlessly and meekly submit to directives from government functionaries; and, most of all, sleazy Washington influence-peddlers who spend time in Government ratcheting up fear levels and then return to the private sector to profit from that fear (Michael McConnell is the poster child for that behavior, but in this case, it's Michael Chertoff). As a result, my first reaction was that the public backlash could be productive in finally drawing a line the citizenry will not permit the Government to cross with these manipulative tactics.

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For the past 10 years, I was a litigator in NYC specializing in First Amendment challenges, civil rights cases, and corporate and securities fraud matters. I am the author of the New York Times Best-Selling book, How Would A Patriot (more...)
 

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