Sunday, November 25, 2007

Firefighters Being Trained to Spy on US Citizens

On the face of it, this would appear to make sense. I mean they are there, the evidence is suspicious of terrorist activity, the evidence is out in the open, but...

How long will it take for firefighters to start being viewed as spooks who are snooping around your home when they come in? This is one of the few groups who are almost universally admired right now.

And how could testimony from a firefighter in court ever hold up? No probable cause for collecting the evidence. No Miranda rights. And as the story says, if RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) are found in the basement, They can't possibly be allowed to remain there even for a few hours while the police are alerted.
Firefighters in major cities are being trained to take on a new role as lookouts for terrorism, raising concerns of eroding their standing as American icons and infringing on people's privacy.

Unlike police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel don't need warrants to access hundreds of thousands of homes and buildings each year, putting them in a position to spot behavior that could indicate terrorist activity or planning.

But there are fears that they could lose the faith of a skeptical public by becoming the eyes of the government, looking for suspicious items such as building blueprints or bomb-making manuals or materials.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Americans have given up some of their privacy rights in an effort to prevent future strikes. The government monitors phone calls and e-mails; people who fly have their belongings searched before boarding and are limited in what they can carry; and some people have trouble traveling because their names are similar to those on terrorist watch lists.

The American Civil Liberties Union says using firefighters to gather intelligence is another step in that direction. Mike German, a former FBI agent who is now national security policy counsel to the ACLU, said the concept is dangerously close to the Bush administration's 2002 proposal to have workers with access to private homes - such as postal carriers and telephone repairmen - report suspicious behavior to the FBI.

"Americans universally abhorred that idea," German said.

Is there a point Americans will finally say they've had enough? I read story after story and think "this is it"! Surely Americans will revolt over this, but I'm always wrong.

Via The Signs.

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