Thoughts Spawned by the Boston Bombing
1. Politicians must make American citizenship harder to get.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev became a citizen less than nine months ago; last week he embraced terrorism. How did such an individual make it through the citizenship process? In the aftermath of the Boston bombing it seems suspiciously like the citizenship process is a meaningless series of bureaucratic boxes that need to be checked, and questions that require an answer. It should be much more: it should weed out the applicants who wish America harm. Today it is obvious the system needs to be micro-analyzed and then rebuilt. Stringent security-grade background checks would be a great first step, and psychological testing might be a worthy second step. A week ago the government once again proved to be fairly incompetent: citizens must demand more.
2. The usage of surveillance drones must be strictly regulated.
When it comes to unmanned aerial surveillance, the genie is already out of the bottle. But the terror in Boston offers us a second chance to control our national destiny. Absent careful regulation, surveillance drones will one day become a disturbing part of everyday life. Elected leaders will tout drones as an inexpensive way to enhance public safety and environmental health. And of course the mountain rescues will be dramatic. But unmanned surveillance technology will also provide the government with a network of modern spies; short-sighted or power hungry leaders will not hesitate to use the them. Citizens must demand wisdom in their leaders, its absence will threaten liberty.
3. Law enforcement efforts may have crossed the line.
According to a long recognized exception to the 4th amendment, a police officer does not need a warrant to chase a suspect into a private dwelling. Yet the recent manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev raises a critical question: when does a hot pursuit become cold? Do law enforcement officers, absent a warrant, have the authority to enter a dwelling hours after a suspect supposedly sought shelter? Regardless of whether the question is germane today, it is worthy of careful consideration. In a similar fashion, a law enforcement officer can tell a person to stop, but what about a whole neighborhood (or town)? Assuming law enforcement officials can freeze a neighborhood or small town, how long does this authority last? Two days? A week? At the federal level, congress alone can decide when officials have the right to hold dangerous individuals indefinitely, and then only under particular circumstances. It is time for citizens to demand that state and federal legislators carefully limit the authority of law enforcement officers to freeze whole communities.
The Boston bombing has already prompted reflection. But a failure to ask the right questions will result in missed opportunities – opportunities we may not soon see again.