Freedom of speech. Freedom of expression. Freedom of religion. The right to privacy. All these notions are, supposedly, what the United States of America is famous for. Why over the centuries, millions have come to the country in search of those very ideals. Why they chose the US as their home, and pledged allegiance to the flag, knowing that it promised liberty and justice for all.
But are any of those things still attainable? Recently, the Associated Press obtained documents showing that the New York Police Department sent undercover officers to infiltrate the lives of Muslim students in the Northeast. It was, reportedly, part of police efforts to "keep tabs" on Muslims throughout the region, as part of the department's anti-terrorism efforts.
And to the further outrage of Muslim advocacy groups, the New York District Attorney's Office refused to investigate the NYPD over the matter.
And the very fact that such violations of civil liberties were happening in New York – a city that prides itself on its ethnic diversity – is a true sign of the Orwellian days to come.
The Department of Homeland Security is pushing its Big Brotheresque See Something, Say Something program nationwide. The FBI is sending out pamphlets to military surplus stores, saying anyone who buys matches and a flashlight is a potential terrorist. Paying cash is suspicious. Shielding your laptop screen is suspicious. Lowering your voice if you're having a phone conversation in public: also suspicious. The agencies are going out of their way to instill fear into whoever they can, convincing them to report anything they deem potentially dangerous.
The National Defense Authorization Act comes into effect on March 1st, and will allow the indefinite detention of anyone deemed a terror suspect – American citizen or not. And if you look at what makes a potential suspect, you can pretty much expect to be waterboarded every time you answer your phone. Or buy a flashlight.
But while agencies spin their citizen-spy webs in fear of a terrorist attack on US soil, American citizens are fearing that it's government actions like these that present the biggest security threat to them all.