While Donald Trump’s confusing tangle of statements leave it unclear exactly what manner of surveillance he proposes to place Muslims under, he clearly favors some level of extra scrutiny.
Whatever that may actually entail, it represents not only a threat to the privacy of Muslims, but yours as well.
The whole thing started with a Yahoo News report.
Yahoo News asked Trump whether his push for increased surveillance of American Muslims could include warrantless searches. He suggested he would consider a series of drastic measures.
“We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,” Trump said. “And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”
Yahoo News asked Trump whether this level of tracking might require registering Muslims in a database or giving them a form of special identification that noted their religion. He wouldn’t rule it out.
“We’re going to have to — we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” Trump said when presented with the idea. “We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.”
The following day, Trump took to Twitter to clarify his statements. It didn’t really help.
“I didn’t suggest a database-a reporter did. We must defeat Islamic terrorism & have surveillance, including a watch list, to protect America.”
During an interview Thursday, the Republican contender made it clear he believes security trumps privacy, indicating the attacks in Paris, in effect, weakened privacy rights.
“Those privacy rights were a lot stronger three days ago than they are now. I think a lot of people would be willing to give up some privacy in order to have more safety.”
No doubt he’s right.
The vast majority of Americans don’t really consider heir own privacy until they forget to delete some nude selfies from their cell phones. They will parrot the tired old “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about,” and let the government snoop at will – especially if they’re scared. And fear appears to be the order of the day.
The Fourth Amendment was meant to restrain government actions in times like these – when passions overrun rationality. But Trump wants to run over the Constitution like a tank on a battlefield in order to protect America from the “Muslim threat.”
The Fourth Amendment notwithstanding, many Americans will nod in agreement with Trump and say, “We have to do what we have to do. We live in exceptionally dangerous times.”
But you need to stop and think.
Even if you agree Muslims need extra surveillance due to the threat of ISIS and terrorism, and you’re willing to set aside the Constitution for the sake of security, you should take pause. If you allow the government to claim such power today, some future president will undoubtedly use it in way they think is right.
That might not bode well for you.
Stop and think about it. Maybe a future President Hillary Clinton will decide gun owners need extra surveillance after some tragic mass shooting. Perhaps some other future president will decide constitutionalists represent some kind of inherent threat due to their “anti-government rhetoric” and put them on a watch list. Or maybe some president down the road will decide America needs to register all Christians because of their incessant “hate speech.”
One could come up with countless ways to abuse this power.
The point: if you allow Trump or any other president to implement these kinds of surveillance programs, you will empower every president in the future to do the same, for any perceived “threat,” real or imagined
Trump’s registry and surveillance may seem pragmatic and necessary, but it is the most dangerous kind of proposal possible.