A Photo-Free NYC

A post-9/11 requirement that tourists and other casual photographers get a permit before taking pictures in New York City has the ACLU claiming a First Amendment violation. The city’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcast proposed the new rules, which would “require City-issued permits and proof of insurance for any person using a handheld camera in any public area in a group of two or more and using the camera for more than thirty minutes,” according to the North Country Gazette. The rules are expected to affect tourists more than any other group, as they tend to gather at places like Ground Zero with their cameras for long periods of time. Source:
“NYC would require permit for casual photography”
North Country Gazette (NY), June 28, 2007

Civil Rights, Security, and One Man’s Solution

Even as President George W. Bush authorized a controversial plan to centralize government powers in the White House following any large-scale national disaster, a closed group of government officials and scholars studied “contingencies” for dealing with nuclear terrorism in the United States. “The Day After,” a meeting hosted by the Preventive Defense Project, was staged behind closed doors in Washington, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The group addressed a variety of issues, including health and shelter concerns, as well as the imposition of martial law and the eventual restoration of civil liberties. Terrorism fears turned inward in Alabama, where the state’s Homeland Security office was found to host a Web site that listed anti-war and gay rights activist groups among possible terror suspects. The site was taken down following protests.

Who Are the Terrorists?

By Martin Leatherman, Newsdesk.org staff
When considering ways to curb terrorism after last week’s London bombings, some analysts say that Western leaders aren’t looking closely enough at the terrorists’ historical context and long-term goals. Professor Robert Pape, director of the University of Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism, argues that strategic rather than religious issues are behind al Qaeda’s terror campaigns — specifically, the removal of Western powers from the Arabian Peninsula. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Pape said that of the 71 individuals who killed themselves in suicide attacks for al Qaeda from 1995 to 2004, the vast majority came from Sunni Muslim countries where the U.S. has stationed combat forces since 1990. In contrast, he said, Sudan and Iran, both deeply fundamentalist Islamic nations, have yet to produce an al Qaeda suicide bomber. Regardless, followers of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden see the strategic issues as serving a distinctly religious goal — the creation of a larger state, or caliphate, governed by Islamic law.

The Patriot Act

By Martin Leatherman, Newsdesk.org staff
This Fourth of July weekend, Americans will descend on their local parks and fire up the barbecues for a celebration of independence and liberty packed with fireworks and patriotic zeal. The Patriot Act, just four years old, has asked Americans to relinquish some of those hard-earned liberties in exchange for greater security. Passed by Congress in the emotional aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the controversial bill expanded the federal government’s investigative and intelligence-gathering powers to fight terrorism. Among other things, it allows secret searches of private property, defines terrorism broadly, expands the government’s ability to watch people, and opens Internet use and personal reading habits to federal scrutiny. Now, with portions of the bill due to “sunset” or expire, Congress has begun debating its reauthorization — and critics are targeting provisions they say are too easily abused.