“If you’re not a terrorist, if you’re not a threat, prove it,” he says.
by Tim Cushing
May 9, 2013
We’ve been dealing with the New York police department lately, thanks to the mayor and the police chief using the recent Boston bombing as an excuse to increase surveillance efforts and enact other policies to further encroach on New Yorkers’ civil liberties. Whenever something terrorist-related occurs, it seems as though the NYPD’s reps can’t keep their opinions to themselves, even as the department itself drifts further and further away from being a sterling example of How Things Should Be Done.
In a recent Christian Science Monitor article dealing with “teenagers, terrorism and social media” (focusing on the recent Cameron D’Ambrosio arrest for making “terrorist threats” via some improvised rap lyrics posted to Facebook), Sgt. Ed Mullins of the NYPD shows up to make some very disturbing statements about your rights and responsibilities as a (mere) citizen. It starts with the worst kind of “policy” and goes downhill fast.
Using a zero tolerance approach to track domestic terrorists online is the only reasonable way to analyze online threats these days, especially after the Boston Marathon bombing and news that the suspects had subsequently planned to target Times Square in Manhattan, Mullins says. The way law enforcement agencies approach online activity that appears sinister is this: “If you’re not a terrorist, if you’re not a threat, prove it,” he says.
“Zero tolerance” is never “reasonable.” It never has been and it never will be. In fact, it’s the polar opposite. Zero tolerance policies simply absolve the enforcers of any responsibility for the outcome and grant them the privilege of ignoring mitigating factors. It allows them to bypass applying any sort of critical thinking skills (the “reason” part of “reasonable”) and view every infractions as nothing more than a binary IF THEN equation.
Mullins goes even further than this, though, asserting that the burden of proof lies with the person charged, not the person bringing the charges. This flips our judicial system on its head (along with the judicial systems in many other countries) and, if applied the way Mullins views it, puts accused citizens in the impossible position of trying to prove a negative. This is just completely wrong, and it’s a dangerously stupid thing for someone in his position to believe, much less state out loud. (Mullins also heads the Sergeants Benevolent Association, the second-largest police union in New York City.)
Believe it or not, Mullins is not done talking. What he says next doubles up on the “dangerous” and “stupid.”
“This is the price you pay to live in free society right now. It’s just the way it is,” Mullins adds.
No. It isn’t.
This is the price Mullins is charging to live in the NYPD’s severely stunted version of a “free” society. The NYPD has been harassing young minorities at the rate of 500,000 impromptu stop-and-frisks per year for the better part of the last decade. For the past 10 years, the NYPD has been regularly trampling citizens’ civil liberties simply because they attend a mosque. The NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg have worked ceaselessly to make New York the most-surveilled city in the U.S.
That’s the price New Yorkers are paying. It has nothing to do with living in a free society. The NYPD takes liberties away and high-ranking cops like Mullins have the gall to suggest there’s some sort of equitable exchange occurring. Mullins doesn’t seem to understand (or just doesn’t care) that if you take away freedom you no longer have a free society.
It has been said that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, but “eternal vigilance” isn’t shorthand for oppressive surveillance and zero tolerance policies that make freedom less “free.” “Eternal vigilance” isn’t treating the Constitution like a relic too worn and tattered to serve any purpose in these “dangerous” times. And being an officer of the law isn’t an excuse to shut your intellect off and allow your brain stem and broad policies to “work” in concert in order to treat loudmouth teens on Facebook like a guy with a trailer home full of explosives.
This “vigilance” is supposed to be put to use by citizens in order to prevent authorities like Mullins from encroaching on our liberties. It’s not solely limited to a united military effort against foreign powers. There are plenty of people apparently willing to attack our freedom from the comfort of the home front.