You know why, of course. The world’s most-wanted terrorists are mostly Muslims. Of the 32 at the FBI website, 30 are Muslims; two are not. (The other two are Joanne Deborah Chesimard, a Black Liberation Army terrorist from the 1970s who escaped from prison in New Jersey and is thought to be living in Cuba; and Daniel Andreas San Diego, an alleged animal-rights terrorist with two bombings to his credit, in San Francisco in 2003.)
As Accuracy in Media reports, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force proposed, in a pilot program with the State Department’s “Rewards for Justice” initiative, to place photos of 16 of the Most Wanted terrorists on the sides of buses in Seattle. Seattle was selected for a reason: because of its proximity to a favorite border crossing for would-be terrorists, and the pervasiveness of its modes of mass transit. The terrorists in question are wanted because they are at large; Seattle is one of the most likely places where an alert citizen might spot one of them, if he is bent on entering or leaving the United States on a terrorist errand.
But Congressman Jim McDermott of Washington (D-7) was having none of this law-enforcement initiative. In a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller, he issued this rebuke:
The “Faces of Global Terrorism” bus ad featuring sixteen photos of wanted terrorists is not only offensive to Muslims and ethnic minorities, but it encourages racial and religious profiling. …
I ask you to reconsider publicizing the “Faces of Global Terrorism” in our city.
I’m sure I don’t need to point out that this posture could be considered literally insane. These terrorists blow people up, as well as kidnapping and murdering them with guns and machetes. Fostering public recognition of their faces, in the quest to locate them, bring them to justice, and/or prevent them from doing any more of it, is best accomplished by getting their photos out there, in venues that will get the most possible “eye traffic.” Small images on the Post Office wall aren’t as effective as putting their photos on buses.
But who knows? If the complaint triumphs that terrorist photos, exposed to the public, encourage racial and religious profiling, in what venue can those photos be made available? Will they be taken off the web and removed from the walls of federal buildings?
Consider this censorship in the larger context. It makes sense to collect and maintain billions of records on the phone calls and emails of 311 million Americans, more than 310,999,800 of whom will never have anything to do with perpetrating terrorism of any kind – but it also makes sense, somehow, to censor from public view one of the most important data points we have in tracing the whereabouts of actual, known terrorists?
There is no valid argument for this move from the exigencies of homeland security, civil rights, or even just basic common sense. It is demented to do this, like a homeowner who proclaims that he wants to keep his home safe, but constrains himself to remain unaware and defenseless, taking no precautions: refusing, on some irrelevant and over-argued principle, to recognize anything related to his home’s safety that may be happening.
AIM links to Pamela Geller at the American Freedom Defense Initiative on this story, and both AIM and Geller discuss the involvement of the usual Islamist advocacy groups in getting the bus ads censored. But I want to focus on the fact that non-Islamist Americans are doing this to ourselves. That includes peaceful, law-abiding Muslim Americans. We have a choice. Islamist advocacy groups can’t “make” us do anything. Each time sound policy and the logic of self-defense are defeated in a political process, it is not because the opponent is strong; it is because our leaders give in – even surrender preemptively. They need to be held accountable for that.