Former Santa Fe public defender Andrew J. O’Connor was handcuffed last Thursday at the St. John’s College library and interrogated by Secret Service agents for several hours. He was taken from the school’s library about 9 p.m. while he was using a computer. “They Mirandized me, handcuffed me and took me to the police station where two Secret Service agents from Albuquerque interrogated me for hours,” O’Connor says. “This whole level-orange (terror alert) thing has them all paranoid, I guess.” Bill Scannell agrees?he?s boycotting Delta Airlines, which is testing the new CAPS II security system of background checks on all passengers.
The FBI and the Secret Service field office in Albuquerque refuse to comment on the O?Connor case, saying it?s “classified,” and Santa Fe Police Chief Beverly Lennen referred all inquiries to the Secret Service. O’Connor says he’s being accused of making threatening remarks about President Bush in an Internet chat room, but he denies doing this. He was using the computer to look for a new job and thinks he may not have logged off and a later user may have actually made the threats. But internet chat is fast and loose?who defines what a “threat” is? This is a case that should chill any internet user.
O’Connor says, “There is this thing called freedom of speech. I never said anything close to threatening Bush. … (The government) is just so paranoid right now about anyone who is anti-war, and they just took this way too far.” He was a member of a pro-Palestinian group in Boulder, Colo., before moving to Santa Fe last year.
Bill Scannell is calling for a boycott on Delta Airlines, which is testing a new Homeland Security plan that will do background checks on all passengers. The CAPPS II Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System will check passengers’ credit reports, banking and criminal records, and some will not be allowed to fly. Delta will try out CAPPS II at three undisclosed airports during March, and the program will be used throughout the country, by all airlines, within a year.
Scannell says. “CAPPS II treats all Americans who want to board a plane as if they were thugs. It’s a horribly misguided attempt to make flying safer. It’s ridiculous and horrible, and it has to stop?Every time a credit report is run on you, it hurts your credit rating. Frequent fliers will not only have a nice thick Delta dossier, but a damaged credit history to boot.” “CAPPS II threatens our liberty, but its security benefits are far from clear,” says ACLU?s Barry Steinhardt. “It will leave security screeners at sea in an ocean of private data; some of that data will be fraudulent, and much of it just plain wrong.”
“This system threatens to create a permanent blacklisted underclass of Americans who cannot travel freely,” says ACLU?s Katie Corrigan. “Anyone could get caught up in this system, with no way to get out.” Passenger information will be stored for up to 50 years.
Should we join the boycott or accept the inevitable? It’s time for each of us to decide.
There are many different ways to fight back.
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