L. Neil Smith's
If You Have Nothing to Hide ...
by Jim Duensing
Special to TLE
On the word of a "reliable informant" several Montana residents were arrested on Wednesday, February 27th. At the time of arrest, County Sheriff Jim Dupont was http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,46752,00.html "pretty sure they were planning on assassinating as many cops and public officials as possible". His evidence aside from the informant was that Dave Burgert had an arsenal of weapons and had looked into the backgrounds of many public officials.
"We found weapons, ammunition, survival equipment, booby traps, body armor, explosive [sic], bomb-making equipment, you name it," Flathead County Sheriff Jim Dupont said. "It all certainly supports the theory that there was going to be big trouble. The last I heard, it didn't take 30,000 rounds of ammo to kill a turkey."
The last I heard, the possession of firearms, survival equipment, body armor, or bomb making equipment (whatever that means) was still legal.
Many people (I'll bet even many law enforcement agents in Flathead County, Montana) have firearms, camping equipment, reserves of frozen meat from last hunting season, more than ten thousand rounds of ammunition, body armor, and reloading supplies. I hope they don't plan on arresting all of them.
Further, Burgert, by himself or as part of a group, was informally accused of collecting information on government agents.
Sheriff Dupont was quoted as saying: "They had these information sheets, actual forms printed out from a computer. They had officers' names, addresses, places they eat, places they shop, stuff about their kids. They even had information on what medications one guy's wife was taking."
I don't understand why the officials of Flathead County are concerned - if they have nothing to hide. If they are doing nothing wrong, what difference does it make who knows it. Who cares if concerned citizens compile information sheets about their community leaders? One would think that citizens looking into the lives of trusted government officials would only yield better community relations, unless of course the officials had something to hide.
Sure, Flathead County officials may not like the fact that concerned citizens conduct "background checks" on governmental officials. But, after 9/11 it's a new world where privacy concerns need to be sacrificed for greater security. We no longer have the luxury of selfishly protecting everyone's privacy.
The officers already undergo some kind of background check by their agency or the FBI or both, what difference does it make if "civilians" are welcomed into the community policing effort, if it means we are better able to fight terrorism? We can never be too safe against terrorists.
But, then again, maybe there is something wrong with looking into every aspect of a person's life. Maybe such institutionalized spying is an infringement against some basic liberty that all freedom loving Americans hold dear.
Maybe if more governmental officials experienced such invasions against their privacy by organized groups with undetermined intentions, those governmental agents would be less eager to subject the American people to privacy invading measures like the national ID card or the http://www.JimDuensing.com/article020702.html 'Trusted Traveler' card (which would accompany a massive database with much more information about the card holder than where they shop and what medication they take). The cards are planned to have information about living arrangements, purchases, religious affiliation, and reading lists - to name a few.
I would never suggest anyone do anything illegal. But, there is nothing illegal about being prepared for an emergency or getting to know one's neighbors. Plus, after 9/11 the President said it's our duty to look out for anything unusual and to be prepared for anything. It's our civic duty to get to know our leaders. If nothing else, it will make us more informed voters.