Washington: A major debate on June 1 between Martin Garbus, a First Amendment lawyer, and Rick Hahn, an analyst for the MSNBC news network, focused on the expansion of the new FBI laws to include entities like Muslim Internet sites, libraries, mosques and political groups.
During a heated debate on the civil rights and privacy implications for the new Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) laws that allow agents to target places of worship, political organizations and Internet sites, the two analysts differed on the effectiveness of such steps but asserted that the steps may be necessary in order to “protect thousands of American lives form terrorists.”
Defending the targeting of American Muslims, Hahn asserted that “mosques have been used during public gatherings to raise money” for terrorist activities. But Garbus, slamming the new laws allowing greater leeway for the FBI as a “public relations ploy,” asserted that such “infiltration” moves by the FBI would both “jeopardize privacy and security. “The FBI doesn’t have the resources or the people to do it.” He went on to state that the FBI is misleading the American people by insisting that their new moves would provide for greater security. “You cannot monitor 6 million people,” Garbus asserted, referring to the estimated number of American Muslims in the U.S.
Defending the targeting of American Muslims, Hahn asserted that “mosques have been used during public gatherings to raise money” for terrorist activities. But Garbus, slamming the new laws allowing greater leeway for the FBI as a “public relations ploy,” asserted that such “infiltration” moves by the FBI would both “jeopardize privacy and security.
“It is not just a question of invading privacy and civil liberties. These [measures by the FBI] are a counter productive public relations ploy to make us look more secure.”
Garbus stated to Hahn that the FBI should not waste its resources on attempting to racially profile American Muslims and concentrate on investigating places and venues where they already have leads. Hahn lashed out by saying that he resented the allegation that the FBI was on a broad based fishing investigation, asserting that such accusations are “false.”
Civil rights activists have slammed the U.S. for its profiling of American Muslims/Arabs since September 11, stating very blatantly that the FBI was on a fishing expedition. Hahn asserted that the new laws providing greater accessibility to the FBI were essential as they now allow for the FBI to target Muslim Internet sites, which he stated attempted to “recruit terrorists.” “Even the Internet sites that are publicly accessible are denied to the FBI. Some of those Websites recruit terrorists.” Garbus, however, refuted Hahn’s claim saying, “Do you think Al-Qa’eda is so naïve that they would recruit over the Internet?” U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft granted the new guidelines Thursday that would permit FBI agents to enter public places freely and observe what is happening there, in the event that terrorist activities are suspected. The guidelines come after much criticism of the 1978 Levy Accords, implemented after former U.S. President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal. The Levy Accords provide strict guidelines for FBI accessibility to public venues and events. Ashcroft insisted that agents would have free rein to surf the Internet and track potential terrorist activities online, "even when not linked to an individual criminal investigation." Agents had previously been restricted from both types of activities, Ashcroft said, adding that the restrictions had provided a "competitive advantage for terrorists."
Garbus and Hahn continued to focus on whether the new FBI guidelines and racial or religious profiling may be necessary in a “war on terrorism”. “Maybe some civil liberties must be sacrificed in order to protect lives,” MSNBC’s moderator prodded.
“No one could have seen during the creation of the Constitution the war on terror,” Garbus stated. “But the question is: have you made the country more secure and safer or is the FBI wasting their resources on public relations?”
“The idea of interviewing 500 Middle Easterners and detaining 400 Middle Easterners has accomplished nothing,” he concluded.
A top secret internal FBI report warned in the months before September 11 that the agency was ill-prepared to handle an attack from groups like Al-Qa’eda, the New York Times reported Saturday.
The classified document, called the “Director's Report on Terrorism”, provided detailed recommendations and proposed spending increases to address the problem, officials who have seen the document told the Times. The internal report found virtually every major FBI field office undermanned in evaluating and dealing with the threat posed by groups like Al-Qa’eda, they told the daily.
The report not only provided an accounting of the abilities of each FBI office to deal with the overall terrorist threat, but also tried to determine the level of funding needed in the next five years to correct the problem.
IslamOnline was told shortly after the events of September 11 that the FBI was so ill prepared that it did not even have one agent who spoke Pashto and had to seek the help of Urdu and a few Farsi speakers to help them deal with the attack on Afghanistan.
The FBI has also embarked on a major effort to recruit Arabic speakers into its ranks.(IslamOnline)