Imagine a society where even the firemen were trained to spy on a nation’s citizens — reporting back to central “big brother headquarters” what suspicious things that they may have seen while in someone’s home ostensibly to save lives and squelch fires.
That used to be places like the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Vietnam and the like — but today, we need to look at ourselves — the United States of America.
Former Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA) has a disturbing, revelatory article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today about precisely the scenario above. Here’s the start of the important article:
The image of the friendly firefighter helping rescue a wayward kitten from a tree might need updating. If the federal Department of Homeland Security has its way, firefighters across the country will be armed not only with firefighting equipment, but also issued training materials on how to recognize suspect behavior on the part of citizens and what to look for in peoples’ homes that might be “suspicious.” In other words, firefighters would become domestic spies. In fact, such training already has begun.
Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, in a recent speech to the country’s fire chiefs, reminded his audience that in the government’s view, a fire or any natural disaster should be seen as no different from a terrorist act. The secretary noted that among the billions of taxpayer dollars that had been distributed to fire departments since the Sept. 11 attacks, were significant sums to develop “fusion centers” in the various states (including Georgia). These strangely named “fusion centers” (officially, “Counter Terrorism Information Centers”) already include firefighters. Chertoff did not in his public remarks to the fire chiefs explicitly mention training firefighters to spot “suspicious” activity or items as among the training they do or should receive, but recent news stories are detailing the troubling manner in which the feds are doing just this.
As usual, New York City — training ground for public officials such as former mayor Rudy Giuliani and current mayor Michael Bloomberg who apparently consider surveillance the Holy Grail of modern government — is leading the way.
Fire chiefs in the Big Apple, for example, already have been granted federal security clearances to further this “integration” of firefighters into the homeland security. According to published accounts of such training, firefighters are being trained to watch for “hostile” or “uncooperative” individuals, or those “expressing discontent” with our government. They are also trained to watch for and report on things that “seem out of place” in a home or business such as firearms and video recording equipment. Rooms with “little or no furniture” fall within the reportable suspicious activity.
We don’t agree on everything, but I certainly commend Bob Barr for his staunch support of civil liberties. I heard him this morning speak about this article and the issues involved — and I think that all Americans, on the left and the right, have got to work more vigorously to stop the quickening creep of the Sovietization of American government and society.
— Steve Clemons