Before we give a hunting license to our government to go and exercise a wide sweep, we ought to understand what tools are being used, argues investor Charles Ortel. John Hajjar of the US-Middle East Alliance to Support Trump joins the debate.
The US Department of Homeland Security is planning to collect social media information and search results on all immigrants to the US. The new requirement is to enter into force October 18.
RT: The Department of Homeland Security is planning to collect social media information on all immigrants, including permanent residents and naturalized citizens. Some would say this plan is too great an infringement of immigrants’ privacy. John, what do you say to that?
John Hajjar: I say President Trump was elected with a mandate to clamp down on illegal immigration. Although these are not illegal immigrants, he’s making a big push to make sure that immigrants to this country are assimilated and will uphold American ideals, and that includes weeding out potential terrorists and jihadists. We know that there are many here. Thankfully our situation is far superior to what’s transpiring in Europe, where countries that have accepted a large number of refugees are seeing crime rates spike. We want to avoid that here. That is why Homeland Security is taking these actions.
RT: Charles, if all this information is already publicly available, what exactly is the problem here?
Charles Ortel: There is no question Trump was elected on a mandate to revisit the policies of the preceding eight years. Where I would argue, the eight years under Obama were years when vetting policies were likely very lax. Just because somebody was naturalized in particular eight years under Obama, does not necessarily mean that it was done properly.
I guess I have no problem with the government going into publicly available information anyway – social media is all public. If you’re on social media, you better expect that our government, other governments, and anybody who wants to read the social media can read the social media.
Where I do draw the line, though, as I think if you start with this wide sweeping search. Let’s say John’s name, or my name comes up, does that give the government a license, just because of a social media interchange, where my name, my Twitter account is linked to one of these people. Does that government then have the right to make a search of my email, and me generally rise to the top of the list of priorities? That is alarming.
RT: John, this measure could also affect US citizens who communicate with immigrants. Isn’t there a potential this information could be misused?
CO: No question there are chances that it could be abused. There are so many cases of abuse in the previous eight years under President Obama. That is something that has to be watched carefully…
This information is in the public domain. So if our government officials can use it to gather information on people that may be susceptible to terrorist ties, then by all means it should be done. There should be carefully defined limits on what can and cannot be done, I agree with that.
RT: Charles, proponents would say this measure could help the government to identify potential terrorists in the early stages of planning. Don’t we need to take extra precautions with terror attacks on the increase?
CO: We absolutely need to be vigilant, careful, and really worry not simply about the last eight years, but even going further back – are there sleeper agents inside the US, are there people prone to radicalization because we miss some aspect of their near history in their families? I get all that. But I would say the period 2001 to the present, or 1989 to the present – electronic and technology tools have leaped ahead and given government authorities powers that the founders never contemplated – that most of us don’t understand.
We see in the behavior of the Obama administration after the election – indeed, in the early morning hours after the election, when Trump won. We do not yet know the full extent of abuses that may have been carried out by the preceding administration, harnessing information that was perhaps illegally obtained on political enemies to use it to hamper the rising Trump administration. So we need to have a session, understanding how far the government can go and abuse its powers before we willy-nilly embrace and let this new administration – whether Democrat, Republican, or whatever – have this expansive powers with no real controls…. They have extra-technological skills that allow them to abuse the system that we can’t even fathom. Before we give a hunting license to our existing government to go and exercise this wide sweep, we really ought to understand what tools are being used…
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.