Two more reasons to fear for your First Amendment rights:
Leonard Pitt describes a confrontation at a library in Bethesda, MD, in which two Department of Homeland Security employees tried to challenge a man's Internet use. The whole scene is straight out of Orwell: a quiet day in a tony suburb suddenly disturbed by government agents crashing in, declaring moral law, and snatching up a supposed offender. Fortunately, in this instance, a librarian intervened.
Just as scary, the Australian government is investigating a man (Henry Rollins---a musician and television celebrity---although his fame is irrelevant to the point) for reading a controversial book on a flight. Some fellow passengers got nervous when they saw Rollins reading Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia.
First, the book discusses militant Islam; it doesn't promote it. The author is a respected journalist, and the book has received rave reviews in the major press.
Second, let's stop and think logically for a moment. Terrorists aren't dumb. They are misguided, but they aren't dumb. The terrorists who attacked on Sept. 11 blended into U.S. society for quite a while (more than a year, I think, but don't quote me). They shaved their beards, donned Western clothes, and partook in typical U.S. activities. You aren't going to find a terrorist sitting on a plane reading "The Idiot's Guide to Violence and Mahem" or "Hijaking for Dummies."
Third, even thought this happened in Australia, it could happen here. I had lunch with my friend C this weekend, and she remarked on some signs she had seen at her local library---signs about the "Patriot" Act. Signs that inform patrons that the U.S. government is privy to your library records without having to show just cause. Big Brother is watching. And there really isn't a whole lot preventing Big Brother from doing a database search of everyone who's ever taken out a book on explosives. Or Eastern religions. Or civil dissent. Or social change. They can then use that information to decide that you are a terrorist threat.
Chances are, you and I probably won't be targeted. I feel fairly safe in stating that most people reading this blog are White, other either European or Hispanic descent. Most of us fall within the Judeo-Christian spectrum. Most of us wouldn't raise any red flags with the books we read or the Internet sites we visit because we have personal moral codes that disapprove of pornography and violence. We may have a few dark corners to our soul, but for the most part, we live comfortably within the norms of our society.
But what about the Middle Eastern teenager who takes out a book on explosives so he can build a volcano for his science fair project? Or the Southeast Asian man who wants to learn more about the terrorist groups that are using his homeland as a training ground? They very well could become targets for nothing more than having an exotic last name and an intellectual curiousity.
And if it could be one of them, it could also be a White woman who protests against the war, writes letters to the editor that criticize the current administration, posts antiwar and anti-Administration screeds on her Web site, and reads a wide range of books.
This is scary stuff.