I’ve been debating if I should respond to this idea of unlimited searches of Muslims again, and realized that there’s a perhaps interesting analogy.
BUFFALO, N.Y. — An Islamic civil rights group Wednesday accused U.S. border agents of religious profiling after dozens of American Muslims were searched, fingerprinted and photographed while returning from a religious conference in Toronto.
[DHS spokeswoman Clemens said:] “We have ongoing credible information that conferences such as the one that these 34 individuals just left in Toronto may be used by terrorist organizations to promote terrorist activities, which includes traveling and fund raising,” Clemens said. “As the front-line border agency, it is our duty to verify the identity of individuals _ including U.S. citizens _ and one way of doing that is fingerprinting.”
[Robert Spencer of JihadWatch closes:]
One easy way to do that would be to cooperate with such inconveniences without complaining about profiling. The bottom line is still that if you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about. Americans must accept these irritations as an unavoidable price of living freely and securely in America today. I myself have been stopped and searched many times at airports, and have never complained about it, nor will I ever, even if I were held for hours somewhere and had to miss my flight.
I’ve responded to the claim that Muslims have nothing to fear (although perhaps not as eloquently as JihadWatch’s commenters; anyone who doubts that Muslim American citizens should be vigilant about their liberties should read the comments on these stories.)
However, lets look at this specific action: Fingerprinting 34 Americans for attending a conference. Now, I might say that this makes sense if there were agents at the conference who can say that yes, this conference was a collection of people advocating the violent overthrow of the government, and Americans there stood up and joined in.
However, to only stop and fingerprint in that case sends a signal that an agent was present, and you’ve got a mole. That’s bad. If Islamic terrorists are willing to murder Theo Van Gogh, they’re certainly willing to kill a mole. And such undercover agents deserve our protection and gratitude; they’re the best way to catch those who would otherwise kill Americans.
There’s an analogy here to the use of information gleaned from cryptanalysis. If you use the information that you’ve gotten, you may reveal that you’ve broken the enemy’s codes. If you don’t use it, what good has it done? The best way to resolve this dilemma is either subtlety or dramatic victories, such as the battle of Midway in the second World War.
However, these are not foreigners we’re dealing with, they’re American citizens, who are (nominally) being treated differently because of their beliefs and their politics. There needs to be a 4th Amendment test of government intrusion into their lives. Some people might object that this is wooly liberalism, and that in these times we can’t afford as much liberty as we’ve had in the past. They are quite wrong. Liberty is the core enlightenment value over which we’re fighting. We need to embrace our values, and show that even under threat, we cherish them. To do anything less is to hand terrorists a moral victory.