Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Terrorist cell phone balloon bursts.

After two men of Lebanese descent were arrested as terrorists for purchasing cell phones in Ohio there was a rash of publicity. And just as all panics do it created more victims. Three men in Michigan were arrested when a Wal-Mart employee snitched to the police that they had purchased cell phones. The men themselves said that they, like hundreds of people, are part of a thriving business where cheap cell phones, on sale, are purchased and then resold elsewhere at a profit.

The men were found with 1,000 recently purchased cell phones. Now a cell phone can be used to detonate a bomb. But 1,000 cell phones are not needed for that, just one. The poor men in Ohio were false labelled terrorists but some prosecutor seeking instant fame, had purchased 600 phones over the previous several months. This is far in excess of the total number of cell phones ever used to detonate bombs in terrorist attacks since cell phones were invented. The very presence of hundreds of phones is a good indication that no terrorism is involved. That ought to be obvious. The real terrorist doesn't go out and buy hundreds of phones. He needs only one.

So now we end with five men in jail and prosecutors calling press conferences while dreaming of higher office. The men in Michigan had driven over, or past, the Mackinac Bridge. And like people who have never see the bridge, which is 5 miles long, they photographed it. "Terrorists!!" screamed local prosecutors who felt they had a real case. Not only did these men have 1,000 dangerous cell phones but they took pictures of a bridge. I have picture of the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben but I'm not planning to blow either of them up.

But in the new Bushian America there are crimes previously unknown. The men were charged with "material support for terrorist acts", that's buying the cell phones. And they were charged with "terrorism surveillance of a vulnerable target", which is taking tourist pictures of the bridge. As a result of the arrests and police hysteria the Coast Guard stepped up patrols around the bridge to make sure it was safe. Meanwhile people on the bridge were crossing it and most probably had a cell phone in their car. Some might even have cameras. By the way, in typical fashion, the local prosecutors refused to say what reason they had for laying any charges against the men. We are just supposed to trust them.

So what happens? Well, the flimsy cases fall apart. There was no substance to the accusations. The Federal Bureau of Investigations came out and said that there is no evidence that any of the men arrested had anything to do with terrorism whatsoever. The first two victims of prosecutors with visions of grandeur had their felony charges dropped. In other words all charges that related to terrorism. But Prosecutor James Schneider, no doubt wanting to save some face in the matter, says he intends to prosecute the men on misdemeanour charge saying they lied to police. Of course there is no chance the police are lying, none, zero, nada, zilch. Yeah, right!

Now realize the alleged "lying" is supposedly about what they were going to legally do with legally obtained cell phones. So at most they supposedly lie about an entirely legal activity. Have we reached the point where the police are free to question anyone, anytime, about entirely legal business dealings? And more importantly, where you can be forced to answer them. What happened to "probably cause"?

But the prosecutor will keep the misdemeanour charges around, at least for awhile, until the publicity dies down so he can pretend they at least had some reason to arrest the two men. Damn the Constitution, he has a political career to save. As for the other men arrested in Michigan. The FBI says no connection to terrorism and no threat to the bridge. The State Police Director, Col. Peter Munoz, said "there is no nexus to terrorism or a terrorist threat." Of course they are scurrying about like rats looking for garbage to find anything they charge the men with in order to show that they aren't wasting tax money and all the free publicity they drummed up for themselves. And if you can't find some crime to charge someone with, in the over legislated theocracy of America, then you aren't looking hard enough.

And lets look at how the Orwellian Homeland Security gestapo was involved. According to this press report: "The FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security sent out joint bulletins in February and March to police departments nation-wide warning about the bulk purchase of phones for personal profit or financing terrorism."

Read that carefully. These federal agencies pushed the police to take action against anyone making a "bulk purchase of phones for personal profit or financing terrorism". Since when did "personal profit" get equated with terrorism? Is it a crime to sell cell phones for a profit? Is Vodaphone now a criminal terrorist organization? What the hell is going on in America? It is incredible to think that Federal thugs are now pushing the police to put people under surveillance, or arrest them, for purchasing phones "for personal profit".

Notice how the government uses the smallest possibility to make the widest net possible. Men in the UK are plotting to blow up planes, allegedly. They thought of using liquids so the government, and Blair was even worse, banned liquids, several restricted all carry on luggage and created such chaos that hundreds of flights were cancelled cost airlines millions. No worries to the government. If the airlines go broke the government will take them over and run them putting all travel effectively under state control. Watch for it to happen.

If a man tries to use his shoes as a bomb, and failed, then hundreds of millions of people have to remove their shoes for decades to come in reply. A terrorist may use a cell phone so all purchases of cell phones become suspect. A terrorist may make a phone call so the government wants to listen in on all calls without restriction or warrants required. Every incident is used to justify clamping down on hundreds of millions of people. This is how dictatorships are born. And if you keep the people afraid they will go along with the erosion of their own freedom. And by the time they reach the point where they say "enough" they will find it's too late and saying "enough" is no longer legal.

Of course Attorney General Alberto "The Rack" Gonzales chimed in with his nonsense over the arrests. He doesn't mind arresting people. If the government is arresting people it isn't doing it's job. His motto seems to be: so many civilians, so few cells. Well Gonzales said: "I don't know how many of you have ever gone to a store to purchase 80-100 cell phones at a time. I would consider that somewhat unusual and I think it would be perfectly legitimate to say, 'Hey, is there something gong on here?'"

Of course it is unusual. But unless we have secret legislation, and anything seems possible these days, unusual is not illegal. I've gone into bookstore and purchased a couple of dozen copies of the same book if the price was right and I could resell them. But I sold books. People sell cell phones and if the price is right will buy hundreds to resell. That is called business. Of course not everyone does it. That is called specialization. It's basic free market economics though apparently no one in the Bush administration likes the idea.

Mr. Gonzales misses one other point. It is unusual and somebody might ask: "Hey, is there something going on here?" But that is not what happened. The five men in question were arrested. They were put in jail cells. Prosecutors held press conferences splashing the names and pictures of them men for hundreds of millions of people to see while smearing them with the label "terrorist". Had someone simply asked the question none of this would have happened. Gonzales, who downplays actual torture, is downplaying the massive injustice done to innocent people on the flimsiest of evidence and the most absurd logic around. There was lot more going on here other than asking a question. And what happened is indicative of the kind of fear, hysteria and panic that is leading a kind of Orwellian police state.