• United States



by Paul L. Kerstein

Should the U.S. bug mosques?

Oct 11, 20052 mins
Critical Infrastructure

In September, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney suggested wiretapping mosques to keep tabs on terrorist plots that might be hatched in these houses of worship. His spokeswoman Julie Teer told the The Boston Globe that we are at war and need to know when there are terrorists living in our country. “The governor, she said is doing what is necessary to protect our citizens and homeland. Is Romney right?

Even before the 9/11 attacks, mosques were said to be meeting place of terrorists. Sufi sheik Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, a moderate Muslim scholar, warned that Muslims with extremist ideologies controlled more than 80 percent of the 3,000 American mosques, such as Brooklyn’s Al-Farooq Mosque, where Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman incited his followers to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993.

But keep in mind that this is America, and we have a right to privacy. The police need more than just anti-American speech to start an investigation. To get a warrant for a wiretap, a judge needs to be persuaded that there’s probable cause of criminal activity.

And what about the consequences of such invasive action? Nancy Murray, the ACLU’s director of education in Massachusetts, told the Boston Globe that international students are already forced to give personal information to the feds so they can be tracked. A tighter noose would dissuade scholars from coming to America.

Wiretapping could even be counterproductive. Ali Noorani, the executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrants and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, believes that is would create resentment, distrust and prevent cooperation. In the long run, he said, “It will only erode the safety and security of our country.

Indiscriminate wiretapping also questions the values that we hold dear. Hassan Abbas, an international security fellow at Harvard University and former Pakistani police chief, felt that bugging mosques is not the way to go. “It has crossed the barrier,” he said, and is not “in the American spirit.”

Would wiretaps help or hurt security? Is bugging mosques a good idea? What do you think?