“I had no idea (Homeland Security) would open personal letters,” Goodman told MSNBC.com in a phone interview. “That’s why I alerted the media. I thought it should be known publicly that this is going on,” he said. Goodman originally showed the letter to his own local newspaper, the Kansas-based Lawrence Journal-World.
“I was shocked and there was a certain degree of disbelief in the beginning,” Goodman said when he noticed the letter had been tampered with, adding that he felt his privacy had been invaded. “I think I must be under some kind of surveillance.”
Most of us are probably thinking about our own selves, and working up some nice outrage at more domestic spying. Yeah, sure. The thing that bothers me about this story is slightly different.
In the 50 years that Grant Goodman has known and corresponded with a colleague in the Philippines he never had any reason to suspect that their friendship was anything but spectacularly ordinary.
But now he believes that the relationship has somehow sparked the interest of the Department of Homeland Security and led the agency to place him under surveillance.
Hopefully Professor Goodman and the rest of us are protected by the Constitution, and can continue to enjoy the luxury of being pissed off about having our mail read.
But what about the foreign colleague? What happens when her government finds out she's under surveillance from Homeland Security? What, that's not going to happen? HS isn't going to contact its allies over there?
Maintaining international friendships is complicated. For some, by the fact of living in a less democratic state and coming under suspicion for even having contacts with Americans. In places like Cuba, for example, the likelihood of a U.S. citizen running into trouble with the Cuban government for talking about democracy with a Cuban is low. The risk for the Cuban is high. In the case of letters being opened, for the U.S. citizen there is the fear and outrage of government snooping. For the foreign friend, the stakes might be considerably higher.
Why should we care? Aside from the concern about our civil liberties, aside from the concern about the impact of U.S. policies on the human rights of people in other countries, we should be concerned because if ever there is a time that the U.S. needs friends abroad - especially in countries "on the U.S. government’s radar screen as a potential spawning ground for Muslim-related terrorism" - it is now. Posted by binky at January 8, 2006 04:44 PM | TrackBack | Posted to International Affairs | J. Edgar Hoover | The Ever Shrinking Constitution