Since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the government of the United States has been infringing upon the civil rights of its own citizens in the name of security. In October 2001 the “Patriot Act” was signed into law, which provides it with sweeping authority to spy on individuals inside the United States, and in some cases, without any suspicion of wrongdoing. More recently, Wikileaks released documents revealing a massive video surveillance network that has been clandestinely set-up inside the United Statues. The technology, called TrapWire, siphons data from surveillance cameras in stores, casinos, and other businesses around the country. Facial recognition software is then used to analyse the footage and track people.
Have these efforts and the growth of the surveillance state made Americans safer?
On Sunday August 5th, 2012, a white-supremacist entered a Sikh Temple during service in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and murdered six people in an act of domestic terrorism. It is just one of a series of attacks that have been directed against Sikhs in the United States since 9/11. Often it is believed that those Sikhs were mistaken by the assailants as being Muslim. To punctuate the point, one day after the attack in Wisconsin a mosque was burnt to the ground in Joplin, Missouri, in another act of domestic terrorism.
Neo-nazis and white supremacists have long been recognised by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a terrorist threat. According to a 2009 Department of Homeland Security report, those groups increased their recruitment efforts and rhetoric after 9/11, relying on broader anti-immigrant sentiment throughout the United States to advance their efforts. The report was attacked and eventually withdrawn due to the efforts of right-wing activists and politicians, who took issue with its use of terminology such as “right wing” and its profile of people of white European descent. Those very same activists and politicians have meanwhile been the ones simultaneously promoting the expansion of the surveillance state and government authority infringing upon citizen rights, for fear of terrorism.
While law enforcement officials find the resources to spy on American Muslims, it has been left understaffed to deal with hate crimes due to the efforts of right-wing activists and politicians who opposed the findings of the 2009 Report. In fact law enforcement officials have had at times to rely upon pro-bono work by the Southern Poverty Law Centre in order to track dangerous groups. The Southern Poverty Law Centre has noted that ”driven by resentment over the changing racial demographics of the country, frustration over the government’s handling of the economy, and the mainstreaming of demonizing propaganda aimed at various minorities, hate groups increased their numbers again in 2011 to 1018.” (Threats of right-wing terrorism are serious, as the people of Norway also discovered tragically the summer of 2011.)
Pamela Gelleris one of the activist bloggers who worked hard to have the 2009 Department of Homeland Security Report withdrawn. What has she been doing in the meantime? Placing advertisements on public transportation in San Francisco that encourage anti-Muslim sentiments: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel.”
Does the ever-expanding surveillance state protect United States citizens from terrorism? When it comes to domestic terrorism and crimes of hate, clearly not.
This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.