Get em' all.
November 14, 2001 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Get em' all. Its funny, while the United States struggles to fight a "humane", or at least politically correct war abroad, here at home American citizens are not so lucky. And unfortunately it looks like the English are following our lead
posted by Grok09 (23 comments total)
A front page story in the Washington Post yesterday described FBI's contacting various universities across the nation, asking for a list of all arab students and their addresses. (Or just student-visa arabs? I don't remember.)

At least some of the students were interviewed by the FBI. Questions ranged from "what are you plans after college?" to "what do you think about Osama?".
posted by Witold at 8:20 AM on November 14, 2001

American citizens? Reread the headline and see if that reference to "5,000 Foreign Men" sets off any bells.
posted by rcade at 8:20 AM on November 14, 2001

And unfortunately it looks like the English are following our lead

Sadly the Scots, the Irish and the Welsh have to play along too.

For god's sake buy an atlas.
posted by jackiemcghee at 8:29 AM on November 14, 2001

I admit I'm mystified by the reference to the English. Is that in an obscure corner of the story or should I just know what's being referred to?
posted by argybarg at 8:30 AM on November 14, 2001

But you know, anyone with a towel on their head is suspect!

Why, just this morning my wife was obviously plotting terrorism! That, or she was washing her hair. It's hard to tell what with this being her first trimester. Either way, I'm sleeping in the garage to be safe.
posted by dwivian at 9:17 AM on November 14, 2001

US and British borders are porous, to say the least, and it is or at least was exceedingly easy for terrorists to gain entry.

With hundreds of sleepers poised to strike, tracking down all these people might be a little distasteful.

Anyone have a better idea of how to seperate the wheat from the chaff so-to-speak ?
posted by BentPenguin at 9:55 AM on November 14, 2001

Let me see, where in my copy of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights does it say that non-citizens have a right to come into the country? Where does it say they can enter unfettered and have free movement? Where does it say everyone that has a visa gets to immediately blend in and disappear?

Let's see. Every one of the Sept. 11 terrorists got thru on a Saudi visa. So let's investigate and start questioning ... hmm ... how about French students here on visas?

Some days I wish people would just grow up.
posted by darren at 9:59 AM on November 14, 2001

All well and good, darren. But I hope not to hear the words "land of the free" come from your lips any time soon. And I supposed we'll have to send back the Statue of Liberty, what with all that nonsense about "give us huddled masses".
posted by jpoulos at 10:08 AM on November 14, 2001

Where does it say they can enter unfettered and have free movement?

Um, here?
posted by holgate at 10:11 AM on November 14, 2001

Holgate, I assume you're referring to "nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws"

I guess it comes down to how you define 'people within its jurisdiction', no?
posted by cell divide at 10:20 AM on November 14, 2001

Sadly, it's mostly about how you define "people." And too many Americans don't include foreigners in that definition.
posted by jpoulos at 10:24 AM on November 14, 2001


That paragraph about equal protection under the laws starts with:
“ All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

Meaning... that it applies to US citizens, not foreign nationals.

Uh... IMHO...
posted by jpburns at 10:26 AM on November 14, 2001

Actually, I'll refer you to the Captain's account of that clause. As Steven says, the distinction between "citizens" and "persons" is quite deliberate. And I was thinking of the "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" clause quite specifically.
posted by holgate at 10:38 AM on November 14, 2001

on the other hand, interviewing these people itself is a wise thing to do. Yes, there is the real risk that this process will result in civil rights abuses, but that doesn't mean the process itself is misguided, just that it needs to be watched over.

There was a fair amount of outrage at the liberty with which the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks had moved about the country and gone about their business here. It's only natural that part of our response should be to be more careful about who we grant those liberties to in the future, and especially the near future, when the risk of another attack is heightened, and the potential consequences all the more devestating.
posted by mattpfeff at 10:51 AM on November 14, 2001

We've allowed them to come into this country and we expect them to help
(From the article)

As an American living in a foreign country, I would hate to be subjected to such a "voluntary interview." It just doesn't sound pleasant to me.

It's only natural that part of our response should be to be more careful about who we grant those liberties to in the future

I don't know if I would say that it is "natural," and I would like to know exactly what criteria we would use to decide who to grant these liberties to. Nationality or religion are obviously not viable choices (or so one would hope). A background check? How many of the 9/11 terrorists would have been weeded out if these were in place? This is very dangerous ground. It frightens me. The measures taken in the past couple of days do not bode well for the future of liberty and democracy, imho.
posted by jeffvc at 11:06 AM on November 14, 2001

The police may ask questions without compromising anyone's constitutional rights -- citizen or no. These are interviews and not arrests.

And I'm with Steven. The opening of the Amendment is to define who citizens are; the later clause uses "person" after the distinction has been made. Yet I don't see any deprivation of life, liberty, or property in interviewing even a broadly defined group of people. If a murder happens in a Mexican neighborhood, wouldn't it make sense to walk up and down the streets interviewing everyone who was there -- even if they're all Mexican?
posted by dhartung at 11:26 AM on November 14, 2001

But, dhartung, would it then make sense to interview every Mexican living in the United States? Or, to be more accurate numbers-wise, every citizen from the state (or town) where the presumed murderer was from?

I don't have a problem with the investigation casting a wide net, in fact I think it's essential in order to prevent future attacks, which is the main mission we're all undertaking. However the idea that interviewing people purely based on race or national origin, and not as you say in your analogy, proximity to the actual crime, is to me very problematic.
posted by cell divide at 11:40 AM on November 14, 2001

Problematic perhaps, but again there are no posts about alternative solutions. You can spout slippery slope all day long, but if interviewing these people is logistically feasible, and there is proper oversight, and it helps make the country for our citizens, then I don't see what the huge problem is.

They are not throwing these people in jail, the writ of habeas corpus has not been revoked, they won't be tortured, they are simply go to answer questions. We're not exactly talking the gulag here.
posted by efullerton at 1:49 PM on November 14, 2001

Gotta love Constitutional interpretation. I wonder how many people here are willing to fight to the death to maintain that "citizens" and "people" refer to seperate groups, but that "the militia" are the *same* "people" who have the right to "keep and bear arms".

I'm just in a trolling mood today, aren't I? I should probably shut up before I get into trouble.

(I think it's a valid point though... I'm sure there's *some* overlap there)
posted by jammer at 2:08 PM on November 14, 2001

In general, I don't have a problem with interviews/questions, as presented in the linked article.

I do, however, have a problem with the people who think that we can achieve "safety," whatever that means.

By analogy, consider murder. You can't predict or prevent most murders. Sure, we know that most murder victims know their killers, but what does that give us for prevention? And we know that lots of serial killers have certain similar behavior patterns (animal abuse & torture, for example). But it is completely mistaken to think that we can identify "causes" and work out predictive/preventative measures based on this information. Just because most serial killers were animal torturers does not mean that most animal torturers will become serial killers.

Furthermore, if predictive/preventative measures are put in place based on these mistakes, then people get lulled into a false sense of security. "Oh, we'll never see another serial killer, because we now treat all animal torturers."

You can't predict and prevent all acts of terrorism. You can't identify a terrorist-in-the-making. Telling the citizens that you can is a lie (and a real big PR risk).

The only way to guarantee complete and permanent eradication of terrorism is by eliminating the human race entirely.

You run the risk right now of dying. Maybe the guy at the next desk is going to come into work tomorrow with a shotgun and go postal. Maybe the bridge you drive across every day is going to be taken out by a rogue airplane. Maybe your spouse has been planning your murder for months, and tonight's the night.

"No that won't happen. I'd know about it."

Yeah, right.
posted by yesster at 2:13 PM on November 14, 2001

I find the murder analogy a bit flawed. Animal abusers may one day become murderers, and trying to treat animal abusers beforehand to prevent future murders would indeed be illogical. Mainly because there are probably hundreds of thousands of animal abusers and there is no convenient registry anywhere from which the authorities can draw.

I think the connection between being an Islamic foreign national on a visa, who has arrived after Jan 1 2001, and being a potential terrorist is a more definite and easy to understand connection than the above. Plus given the limited number of potential matches, it is a far more feasible process to conduct. Another difference is that presumably if any of these people are in fact part of a terrorist organization (and that can be proven thanks in part to this interview process) then they are already by definition terrorists who should at the very least be expelled. There is no future act of violence that needs to be committed to define them as threats to the public safety.

Obviously you're not going to be able provide a completely safe environment for everyone all the time, but the government must try. Otherwise what the hell is the point of having cops - fuck it you're not going to be able to keep everybody safe, let's give up.
posted by efullerton at 2:34 PM on November 14, 2001

yesster, at the risk of sounding rude, I heard lots of rhetorical flourishes in your post but I don't get your point. Who really doesn't understand that they could die at any moment and that predicting murder is difficult?
posted by argybarg at 3:15 PM on November 14, 2001

i don't think we're talking about interviewing people *solely* based on religion and race. even if, for whatever absurd reason, they wanted to cast such a broad net that any Arab Muslim was a potential interviewee, the government doesn't have those kinds of resources and it wouldn't be practical. (5000 people is a drop in the bucket when you consider the number of Muslim nationals from Arab states in this country.) If someone's getting interviewed it's because they're here on visa *and* they're muslim *and* they're arab *and* *there's some other factor that points in their direction.*

I don't think we're "trying to achieve safety," we're simply doing the most thorough investigative work possible. in a homicide investigation, police detectives question anyone that might have even a tenous link to the suspect(s) or the victim(s). It doesn't mean that everyone they question is suspected of doing anything wrong; only that the police are looking for relevant information. I fail to see how this is any different. If they were being unfairly arrested or detained it would be one thing, but i don't think that even the most liberal interpretation of the constitution would consider an interview "inhumane."
posted by lizs at 6:07 PM on November 14, 2001

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