Janesville60.5°

They’ll watch concerts to thwart stoner terrorism

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Joel McNally
August 18, 2008

Attending a rock concert at Summerfest is not a terrorist act, even if someone passes a joint down the row.


In fact, if someone were planning a terrorist attack on Summerfest, marijuana might be the perfect antidote. Putting together a well-coordinated attack is a lot more difficult when you can’t remember what you just said.


Young zealots may be burning with ideological fervor to bring death to the infidels, but the next thing they know they are 45 years old and living in their parents’ basements.


Milwaukee and its five surrounding counties will receive $350,000 in federal anti-terrorism funds to buy portable video surveillance cameras to monitor large public events. Police say this equipment will be used to look for suspicious activities at crowded outdoor events such as concerts, festivals and—they really said it—livestock shows.


Give us a break. Not a single cow or 4-H club has to worry about having its privacy invaded by these surveillance cameras. The cameras will be aimed at those of us who live in urban areas who already have enough of these un-American intrusions into our privacy.


Portable surveillance cameras have absolutely nothing to do with stopping terrorism. In fact, they are a perfect example of why the federal government has done so little since 9/11 to make our country any safer from terrorism.


The Bush administration has spent billions of dollars in the name of homeland security, and very little of it has provided any additional security at all. It has been used to set up phony procedures to visibly harass innocent air travelers by confiscating their killer hair gel. The whole idea is to create a public façade of fighting terrorism to cover up the administration’s bungling.


The Transportation Security Administration can make absolutely sure not a single one of us transports more than three ounces of Dippity Do in a plastic container within a quart-size zip-lock bag, and that will do nothing to stop the tons of unexamined cargo flowing through our ports every hour that could contain enough explosives to blow us off the map.


We’ve had a 5-year, trillion-dollar war that has cost us upwards of 4,200 American lives so far in a small country that had nothing to do with 9/11 to cover up the fact we still don’t have a clue about how to find Osama bin Laden, the perpetrator identified the day of the attack.


Besides doing phony things to pretend we are fighting terrorism, unfortunately, this particular administration has taken advantage of Americans’ fears to try to dismantle constitutional freedoms and undermine basic democratic values. Jane Mayer’s outstanding book, “The Dark Side,” details how the Bush administration broke not only international laws we took the lead in writing but also long-standing U.S. laws to torture and even murder so-called “detainees” in the war on terror.


As we continue to see the dismantling of constitutional protections and the rule of law, we’ll try to remain hopeful no one swept up in local arrests at rock concerts will face waterboarding or other forms of torture.


But there are plenty of other negative consequences to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in anti-terrorism funds—and no doubt millions across the country—simply to increase local arrests for minor crimes. It’s amazing that of all the police services that could be construed as fighting terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security considers surveillance cameras at rock concerts a serious priority.


The last major arrest at Summerfest was 36 years ago when comedian George Carlin was arrested by Police Chief Harold Breier’s officers for engaging in free speech. I was there that night. My life was so shattered by the words uttered by Carlin, it was decades before I could rejoin decent society.


Portable surveillance cameras spying on crowds at concerts will do little more than increase incarceration rates by sweeping more young people into the criminal justice system for minor offenses and wrecking their future employment. But I guess they should have thought about that before they decided to commit terrorism against America.


Joel McNally is a syndicated columnist. His e-mail address is jmcnally@wi.rr.com.

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