Spying should stop now

Young Muslim men beware: The United States government and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are on your tail. Based on information found in Afghanistan and Pakistan al-Qaida camps that 10,000 to 20,000 people, but none specifically by name, have been trained in the camps, FBI operatives have been collecting surveillance on hundreds of young Muslim men in the United States, using any means available, according to the New York Times. The government has over-stepped its bounds; no one wants another Sept. 11, but taking away the rights of Americans based on assumptions should not be happening.

Reports have stated that under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the FBI can track any electronic activity of a suspected terrorist, including e-mails, phone calls, credit card transactions and Internet use. It is also allowed to photograph them, question their family members and track their movements to neighborhood functions, mosques, etc., all without their knowledge.

The FBI has no real estimate as to how many al-Qaida sleeper-cells are located in the United States. However, based on evidence that as many as 10,000 to 20,000 men have been trained in the foreign camps, John E. Bell, director of the Detroit FBI field office says that, “it stands to reason that a certain percentage of them are in this country.”

How many is a percentage? Is it 0.1 percent, or 98 percent? “Percentage” is a very vague reference. So vague that it doesn’t necessarily merit the surveillance of “hundreds” of Muslim men. And while on the subject, how many is “hundreds?” The government needs to have something better than a rough estimate of who might or might not be a terrorist.

This surveillance of young Muslim men has to stop. Some arrests have been made based on some of this information, but this level of spying takes it too far. Over-compensating for mistakes before Sept. 11 isn’t going to get the FBI the answers they need. They should start finding definitive suspects before they ruin innocent lives.