View From The Middle
I t was more than three generations ago that George Orwell’s astounding, frightening novel “1984” was published and scared us all because of the fear of a totalitarian state where “Big Brother” was watching our every move. And the thought of it still frightens us.
No wonder — Big Brother IS watching. And, if not fully frightening, it is at least cause for concern, more nowadays because of the apparent clandestine (sometimes) investigations by that Establishment into our private lives. The Establishment, better known to Orwell fans as Big Brother, in this case is spearheaded by the New York Police Department, according to the Associated Press, that is.
Is it necessarily a bad thing? Maybe it’s a good thing. In any case, we now have what we call a dilemma, defined as any situation requiring a choice among unpleasant alternatives.
Last August, the AP started taking a close look at what the NYPD has been doing in their continuing effort to protect us from terrorists, with a particular insight as it regards the Muslim population. In essence, of course, that investigative news organization is — quite properly — looking to see if our law enforcement agencies — especially the NYPD — have overstepped their boundaries, not only geographically, but in other ways as well, including sociologically, or perhaps even religiously.
As the standard-bearers of journalism at its supposedly finest, it’s up to them — as with all members of the working press — to reveal the basics of the truth, not necessarily for the Establishment but for us, the people. That’s the essence of a free press in the first place: find out what’s happening and, right or wrong, let the people know. Information and, hopefully, education — pure and simple.
So the AP did their investigating and discovered that, since only shortly after the September 2001 attack on the Twin Towers, the New York Police Department might have been looking TOO deeply into the backgrounds of the Muslim community, not only within the city, but across the river and through the woods, and over hill and dale through the northeastern U.S.
Of course, this came to the attention of Muslim leaders, not to mention the New York Civil Liberties Union and various other libertarian organizations whose officials and activists were quoted as saying the NYPD had been “spying” on innocent Muslims all over the place, from colleges to mosques to private parties and then some.
To say they were, and are, upset, is to put it much too mildly. They’re raising hell all over place, with protest marches and rallies and calling for the firing of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly because they object to these supposed underhanded tactics. The governor of New Jersey has said we should stay in our own yard. The mayor of Newark has told our detectives to stay away from his boundary lines, while other elected officials, including those in Connecticut, don’t want the NYPD and their antiterrorism forces to be seen in their land.
It’s almost understandable if this was Orwell’s land of Big Brother. And even the civil libertarians would have a case if the NYPD investigators were using illegal operations. Nowadays though, those surveillance cameras and phone taps and the use of the latest technological devices are part of the job, whether it happens to fall under the category of espionage or high school misdemeanors. We don’t hear too much about how and when our detectives are able to get a warrant from proper authorities giving them permission for an investigation merely because they have found a good reason for it.
Of course, Commissioner Kelly says our guys haven’t been doing anything wrong. And it’s not only within the law to search out terrorists wherever the evidence may lead us, but it’s reasonable AND WISE! Kelly has the backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Chuck Schumer and Governor Andrew Cuomo and, although he’s wavering a little, even U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is, while giving proper lip service to those necessary in the political chain, thinking about looking into the problem. Even the attorneys general of New Jersey and New York have said they’re holding off on holding any investigative hearings. In a meeting Sunday, Muslim leaders said they had a roundtable discussion on the subject and they were “pleased that both sides are talking about it.”
Commissioner Kelly has said from the start that the NYPD’s mission is to keep the city safe. Take a look at the record of terrorist activities and the outcomes of a number of alleged plots since 9/11.
Do we have a dilemma here? Well, the alternatives are: 1) to be observed in everything we do, like it or not or, 2) allow terrorists to run rampant and blow us to smithereens.
Big Brother? Maybe. But I, for one, feel pretty safe. Don’t you?