Editorial: Anti-terrorism bill needs work

An anti-terrorism package that was supposed to be voted on today was postponed due to several objections to certain parts. The proposal would enforce stricter penalties against terrorists and the countries that harbor them. However, some parts, such as detaining immigrants suspected of terrorism, appear to be unconstitutional and need re-evaluation.

The country needs some sort of assurance that those who perpetrate terrorist attacks will be punished appropriately. However, in the process of strengthening those punishments, we must be careful not to lose our individual freedoms and violate the rights of innocent people while implementing methods to find and deter terrorists.

Making it harder for terrorists to find a place to base their activities would help deter terrorism. But detaining immigrants who are suspected of terrorism may only prove to isolate people of certain ethnic and religious groups.

If the course of action continues to target Arabs and Muslims who may be suspected of conspiring with the Taliban, people with no ties to the Taliban or any terrorist organization, may be detained for no other reason than their physical appearance. Possible profiling systems may target people who have nothing to do with terrorism, and if the bill was passed, it would allow for their legal detainment.

Such a possibility brings the recent case of Mazen Al-Najjar to mind. He is a former USF professor and a Muslim who was held in prison for more than three years on “secret evidence” and falsely linked to terrorists. In the end, he was released but never formally charged with a crime. It is an abomination of the American justice system to allow people to be detained based on suspicion of any crime without proof.

Several of the proposal?s ideas are good, such as increasing wiretapping efforts and imposing stronger penalties against those who harbor terrorists and may deter terrorism. Illegally detaining people based on information gathered through profiling should be reconsidered.