Scott Tibbs
blog post
August 18th, 2004

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Watching the convention protesters

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting interviews with activists protesting the Republican National Convention, just as they did in the weeks leading up to the Democratic National Convention.

This has raised concerns among civil libertarians. The New York Times said in an editorial that "The F.B.I. should redirect its efforts to focus more directly on real threats.".

I disagree that this is not a "real" threat. As the anti-globalization protests/riots in Seattle showed, often political activism can get out of hand. In Bloomington, we have seen the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front commit bombings and arson in the name of protecting the environment or "animal rights". Craig Rosebraugh, former spokesman for the ELF and ALF, wrote an op-ed encouraging acts of terrorism to oppose the war in Iraq.

That said, I have mixed feelings about these tactics by the FBI. It would be very easy to use "homeland security" as an excuse to intimidate political opponents, and the Times is right in that it does remind one of totalitarian regimes. But at the same time, law enforcement has a responsibility to prevent terrorists from harming innocents or causing widespread destruction.

I would support the investigations, but care must be taken to make sure that this is done in the name of security, not silencing opposition. The media must play a critical role in this matter, highlighting any potential abuses of power and shining the light onto the investigations.