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September 29, 2023

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Case for surveillance remains weak

This is in response to Jason Snead’s article, “They might be watching you, but that’s not such a bad thing” [Sept. 12]. A few things bothered me about his most recent column (U.S. domestic surveillance) to which I would like to retort.

Snead states that Americans can no longer believe that our enemies are “over there.” He’s right; however, he fails to realize that the U.S. has had terrorists within its borders for centuries now. American history is riddled with terrorist attacks from people involved in the Salem Witch Trials, slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, etc. And then there are individuals who carry out terrorism like “The Unabomber” (Ted Kaczynski), the Oklahoma City bombing (Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols), the Columbine High School shootings (Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold), or even serial killers. Snead may believe that terrorism in America is “a unique phenomenon”; however it’s nothing new.

When talking about the U.S. conducting domestic surveillance on its citizens, Snead asserts that “the government [has not] intentionally targeted political groups or dissidents”” Wrong again. The government consistently and ruthlessly went after people suspected of Communist ties during the Red Scare in the 1950’s. In 1969, Fred Thompson, a prominent member of the Black Panther Party, was shot (among others) multiple times in his home by the Chicago police. More recently, there have been countless attacks and arrests on Muslim people who were targeted after Sept. 11.

The government has admitted that mistakes were made when it comes to information obtained from recent domestic surveillance, but let’s take it one step further and look at the historical context of U.S. surveillance. The most famous incident, and again I cite this, was Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the subsequent Red Scare. The government used scare tactics based upon insufficient evidence and eventually ruined peoples’ lives and reputations. So is there a way to fix the flow of information so that it can only be used to protect and not hurt Americans? The only solution Snead provides for this little problem, is a “need for some form of oversight.” In other words, more bureaucracy. The last thing this government needs is more bureaucracy. It slows everything down and might as well be known as political gridlock.

Terrorism can be defined in a thousand different ways, but the one thing that they will all have in common is the element of fear. Americans are scared, and who wouldn’t be? Terrorism, war, and countless other things are depriving us of our common sense and we’re starting to panic. After Sept. 11, we turned to our leaders for safety, and in the six years that have passed since, that same government promised order would be restored. And all they wanted in return was our blind obedience. Now what do we have? We have a country that would willingly give away our intrinsic freedom than fight to retain them. Benjamin Franklin said it better than I could, “Those who would give up essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither.”

Woolard is a BGSU alumna from the class of 2007. Send responses to her column to [email protected].

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