Monday, November 26, 2007

Firefighters: aiming to extinguish terrorism?

Firefighters tend to enjoy hero status as first responders who arrive with only one agenda: to put out the fire and help the wounded.

The government is adding another to the job description: to be lookouts for possible terrorist activity.

Unlike boys in blue, firefighters and EMTs don’t need warrants to enter homes and buildings – an enviable position that allows them to scout for blueprints or bombs.

As you might imagine, critics are concerned about an invasion of privacy:

Mike German, a former FBI agent who is now national security policy counsel to the ACLU, said the concept is dangerously close to the Bush administration's 2002 proposal to have workers with access to private homes — such as postal carriers and telephone repairmen — report suspicious behavior to the FBI. "Americans universally abhorred that idea," German said.

That hasn’t stopped Homeland Security from training NYC firefighters to spot signs of terrorist activity. If the training’s successful in New York (and a fire chief quoted in the story says it’s turned up a few “hits”), the government intends to expand it.

D.C. firefighters were recently given the same access as police to terrorism-related information. They carry the knowledge with them to the 170,000+ homes and businesses they routinely enter each year.

Are we safer now that we have more sets of eyes on alert for terrorist activity? Or is more of our privacy slipping away?

Will this hold up in court?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Image courtesy

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Other variant is possible also