In “Time to Remove the Surveillance Blinders” (Nov. 24), Michael J. Mukasey and Jamil N. Jaffer essentially argue—as many do—that terrorists have recently, and serially, undertaken large and organizationally sophisticated efforts to mobilize attacks against the West.
The terrorists want us to believe that we must combat this by sacrificing our core Western values of liberty, privacy and freedom of religion. This empowers them in the eyes of the public and the media, which perfectly serves their purposes, all centering around recruitment propaganda. It furthermore weakens us by attacking our society’s essential premises from within.
The truth is perhaps far more terrifying. Any fool with a gun can wreak such havoc: The Virginia Tech massacre, a bona fide freelance shooting, netted 32 victims. Do the math: If the shooter, armed with over-the-counter weapons (not even AK-47s), had been accompanied by another five other viciously like-minded people, they might easily have killed 192. The Virginia Tech killer would only have needed three companions to equal the Paris body count.
What this tells us is that in today’s world small groups of people operating in a largely (or even completely) independent manner have the ability to easily inflict terrorist massacres in any number of ways. They don’t need big organizations like ISIS or al Qaeda to do that, just their inspiration; and to react in the way that Western governments are now doing—which amounts to a wholesale panic—is absurd. We are unwittingly playing directly into the jihadists’ hands.
Citizens of the free world must understand that we live in dangerous times, acquire courage and go forward. Some of us will die. Our Founding Fathers feared tyranny more than they feared death. What we must not do is empower fear-mongering, reactionary bureaucrats, whether in America or abroad, to hijack and negate our civil liberties in pursuit of an imaginary “safety” from terrorism. We are not safe; and we won’t be, ever, no matter how many lives or guns, or how much money, we throw at the problem.
The cowardly seek safety; the brave serve, in all walks off life, at the risk of their lives. What we must be is informed and resolute as we choose between these options.
Lee van Laer