How smart is too much intelligence?

Theresa Montgomery

Most people I’ve talked with think it’s not a big deal.

I had to sign a piece of paper at Career Services this semester in order to get a paycheck from Kent State. The Ohio Division of Homeland Security wants to know if I, a public employee, am giving money to the bad guys.

Just a little thing — a formality — but it really bothered me.

The form is called The Declaration Regarding Material Assistance/No Assistance to a Terrorist Organization. I heard on NPR a while back that the government’s rationale for having people sign it is that it gives them a legal basis to proceed against people they think may have ties to terrorists.

So, I signed it. Anything to help the homeland.

However, evidence is mounting that the Bush administration is lining up governmental appointees with strong intelligence backgrounds in preparation for an all-out assault on our constitutional protections. We don’t lose essential freedoms overnight. We hand them over in increments.

The New York Times recently published an article that just gave me the willies.

According to a Jan. 13 report, the Pentagon has been using a rather obscure power within its authority to get the banking and credit records of Americans suspected of terrorism in “an aggressive expansion by the military into domestic intelligence gathering.”

They don’t have to go to anyone to get permission for this invasion of privacy, nor do they have to provide any reason regarding the premise for that suspicion. They’re just curious.

The CIA is also in hot pursuit of Americans’ financial information. Our government is now doing things that fall outside the parameters of its authority: basically, spying on its own citizens.

Viewed by constitutional law experts and others as pretty much illegal — the CIA has long been restricted from operating on home soil — the CIA’s issuing of “national security letters” to American companies directing them to turn over bank, credit and other financial information on American citizens is a sort of terrorism in itself. All this is done in relative secrecy, with no accountability or recourse.

Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, a former general counsel at both the National Security Agency and the CIA, said in the article, “They’re moving into territory where historically they have not been authorized or presumed to be operating.”

People I talk with about it seem resigned, as long as it protects us from the terrorists.

But the government, for all its digging, isn’t generally finding terrorists in this unconstitutional frolic. What they are, at most, managing to do is clear those they have suspected of terrorism.

Not that that’s not a great accomplishment, but Benjamin Franklin said those who sacrifice essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

So — what’s in your wallet?

Theresa Montgomery is a senior newspaper journalism major and a guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].