The New York Times, American Civil Liberties Union, anti-Bush protesters and Muslim activists are all apoplectic over the FBI's efforts to prevent violence and terrorism. Agents are -- gasp -- knocking on doors and asking questions. Based on these basic intelligence-gathering actions, the civil liberties alarmists are convinced that the constitutional sky is falling.
On Monday, the Times published a front-page story that painted FBI agents as jack-booted thugs bent on scaring the pants off of innocent, do-gooder college kids. A Tuesday Times editorial bemoaned how "(s)ix investigators recently descended on Sarah Bardwell, a 21-year-old intern with a Denver antiwar group, who quite reasonably took away the message that the government was watching her closely." The editorialists concluded: "The knock on the door from government investigators asking about political activities is the stuff of totalitarian regimes."
Oh, give me a break. Getting shocked with cattle prods for practicing one's faith is the "stuff of totalitarian regimes." Getting locked up in an iron maiden for losing a soccer match is the "stuff of totalitarian regimes." Answering a few questions about possible domestic terrorism is the stuff of responsible citizenship.
Agents are not targeting every tattooed Bush hater and handcuffing every pacifist grandma in an insidious effort to chill free speech. They are simply trying to be what every hindsight hypocrite has asked them to be: proactive and preemptive.
The fact is that many anti-war groups have been tied to extremist guerrilla tactics and pro-violence movements. The Ruckus Society caused massive rioting and destruction in Seattle in 1999. In a militant call to arms published last spring across left-wing Internet sites, infamous environmental thug Craig Rosebraugh called on his antiwar colleagues to take "direct actions" against American military establishments, urban centers, corporations, government buildings and media outlets. In Oakland, "peaceful" protesters exercised their "free speech" by attempting to shut down a port involved in shipping military supplies to soldiers during wartime.
The "Black Bloc" organization is instructing protestors to trick bomb-sniffing dogs on New Jersey Transit lines and New York City subways in an effort to create "maximum disruption" and drain police resources.
Is the FBI -- which must grapple with the prospect of another international terrorist attack on American soil, as well as havoc from domestic terrorists -- supposed to turn a blind eye to these past actions and future plans? By the protesters' own admission, federal investigators are simply asking specific questions about whether demonstrators headed to the Republican National Convention in New York City are planning violence or other disruptions, and whether they have any knowledge of such plots.
Some of those who have been questioned by the FBI say they were "harassed" and scared by armed agents who visited their homes. Boo hoo. What do they want the agents to do? Would showing up in clown suits with squirt guns in their holsters make them feel less frightened? These are serious men and women doing serious jobs in serious times. Grow up.
Similar complaints about the FBI meanies are coming from Muslim leaders and ACLU lawyers who are incensed that agents from the 2004 FBI Threat Task Force are asking Muslims questions about possible terrorist plots. "These large dragnet interviews that really focus on people because of their ethnicity or religion are not productive investigative techniques," complained Parastou Hassouri, an immigrant rights specialist with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.
Where, pray tell, does Hassouri suggest that the FBI go to gather information about Muslim extremists? Madonna's Kabbalah prayer meetings? Bob Jones University? The Christian Science reading room at the mall?
These same hysterical groups who lambaste the FBI for its "aggressive" behavior now will be the first to roast the bureau for intelligence-gathering laxity if something catastrophic happens before the November elections. You just can't win with these whiners.
Michelle Malkin is a syndicated columnist and maintains her weblog at michellemalkin.com