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Freedom and Public Safety

June 13, 2016

A terrorist act in Orlando by an American citizen of Aftgan decent motivated by Islamic radicalism raises important questions about how much freedom are American willing to give up in order to be safe on our streets, homes and public places.

Omar Martine was investigated on two occasions by the FBI for radical statements he made and, yet, his freedom to purchase weapons was not restricted. He was not placed under a court order restricting his movements, nor was he compelled to wear a monitoring device on his person.

This is a free country and freedom of speech may be legally restricted only when that speech constitutes an incitement to act illegally. Martine’s ethnicity, his religion nor his father’s Islamic activism were used to restrict this actions, to arrest him for radicalism.

Modern technology has increased the ability to surveil our streets and intersections, to record movements of persons for later review, and to issue moving violations for running red lights. In the city where I live, city authorities have argued that surveillance of some intersections where there are high incidences of accidents, is reason to place cameras at those intersections and to photograph violations that may occur.

I once received a photograph of my vehicle in the District of Columbia along with a citation for running a red light. I was offended and argued that the District’s motto, “No taxation without representation”  should apply to me as well. Surveillance of automobile traffic in the District of Columbia is not just a public safety measure. Those cameras generated $85 million dollars in revenue in Fiscal 2011. In 2013, revenue declined to $70 million in a City budget of $6.3 billion.

I find the placing of cameras at intersections offensive and intrusive. Use of drones to monitor traffic for enforcement purposes is equally offensive, yet these technologies are useful for other police purposes.

How much freedom are Americans willing to give up in order to assure that we are “safe.” Should TSA policy call not to “profile” persons at airports, treating old ladies in wheel chairs the same as young, fit, males? Should persons with Middle Eastern names be scrutinized closely while Smith, Jones and Randolph glide through airport security?

If you have traveled  by air in Israel or, as I once did, on a flight from Taipei to Quemoy, you will be searched more thoroughly than at the airport in Orlando. But, Orlando was the site of the worst act of Islamic terrorism in American history.

Should we segregate American Muslims as we did Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor? Or, as Donald Trump has suggested, no longer permit emigration of Muslims from Syria?

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