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Doing battle with a hydra

By George F. Smith
web posted November 5, 2001

We hear our president tell us the war is being fought on two fronts, but in truth this crisis is fast becoming a multi-headed monster.

Runaway Charity

Who would've guessed charity would grow into a major issue, but it has. And in becoming so it illuminates an interesting fact of human nature. How often have you heard something like: "Oh, we need the welfare state. How else would we take care of the needy?"

Try voluntary action. As Americans dug deep to help 9-11 survivors, we've witnessed an unprecedented flood of wealth transfer, including blood, food, physical and spiritual aid -- without the government's nudging gun, without intimidation, speeches, or wasteful bureaucratic campaigns.

People and corporations have given so much -- $1.4 billion -- it's choking the coffers. Instead of providing relief to survivors, the donations created a new class of victims: the donors themselves. Their money's collecting interest in the charities' bank accounts. It reeks of government's efforts at welfare, creating more victims while failing to bring relief to the needy.

Bill O'Reilly, after noting the charities "can do pretty much anything they want with the donated money," thinks Big Brother should step in and direct the distribution of funds. The celebrities who helped raise the money say they're too busy to get involved. How about a private management firm, Bill?

CEO Bernadine Healy

Joseph Farah, who once founded a charity, sees disaster if the Fed intervenes. "Government oversight won't help alleviate the problem," Farah writes. "It will worsen it -- creating more paperwork, more administrative procedures, more red tape."

The Red Cross raised $547 million for 9-11 relief -- then its governing board wanted to mix it with its main disaster relief fund, a decision that led to the resignation of CEO Bernadine Healy. With incompetence rampant and ethics minimal, who would be surprised if Al-Qaeda draws funds from the relief efforts?

The Federal Bureau of the Internet

According to reports, the FBI plans to get much more aggressive in eavesdropping on internet activity. They had already stirred protests last year by using an email spy program, Carnivore (officially designated DCS-1000), but now they're hinting they want to restructure the internet to funnel all email directly to them. In post-9-11 America, their chief obstacle is technical, not political.

The bureau won't force internet companies to do the restructuring, they'll simply intimidate them into trying. The companies will announce they're cooperating with law enforcement to fight a threat to our national survival, ignoring the privacy they're putting to death.

But even if the FBI succeeds, how will their scheme catch terrorists? For over a year, the National Security Agency has been reading the world's email and intercepting other communications with Carnivore's more muscular brother, Echelon, for the alleged purpose of catching big-time crooks and terrorists.

"The trouble is, most world-class criminals and terrorists aren't sending incriminating plain-text e-mails," writes ZDNet's Robert Vamosi. "They're using other methods to communicate, such as steganography (hiding files within a file)."

Long before 9-11, the government found documents suggesting Al-Qaeda "has been using steganography to hide their plans inside pornography and MP3 files." Neither Echelon nor Carnivore can detect steganographic files -- in fact, such files are virtually impossible to uncover, according to computer forensic experts. So while the government scans emails that propagate the latest office joke, people plotting to kill us sneak messages behind the Fed's back.

Islamic America?

President Bush has rightly stood up for the millions of peaceful Muslims living in America. They "salute the flag as strongly as I salute the flag," he said during a visit to a Mosque on September 17. But sweeping Islam under the rug would be costly.

A decade ago, Siraj Wahaj became the first Muslim to deliver the daily prayer in the U.S. House of Representatives. A year later he was telling an audience of New Jersey Muslims that if the Islamic faithful in America were united and strong, they could take over this country and elect their own leader.

According to Daniel Pipes, a syndicated columnist and director of the Middle East Forum, a significant number of American Muslims "share with the suicide hijackers a hatred of the United States and the desire, ultimately, to transform it into a nation living under the strictures of militant Islam."

Influential Muslims such as Zaid Shakir, Ahmad Nawfal, and Masudul Alam Choudhury openly advocate a Muslim America. Various Muslim websites post a widely-read manuscript by Shamim A. Siddiqi on why and how to convert America to Islam. The 168-page study identifies the U.S. government and Christianity as Islam's greatest enemies. Converting America would not only eradicate these foes but would establish the dreamed-of Islamic kingdom on earth.

Most Islamists, Pipes contends, advocate nonviolent means to take over the country, in part because terrorist acts like 9-11 indiscriminately kill Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Nonviolence also offers supporters a vision of rescuing America, rather than destroying it. Rescuing will come about mainly through proselytizing, which Allah commands, and bringing Islamic rituals to the public's attention. Their approach, therefore, is to whittle away at the existing order to ultimately impose their system of law. How soon? Siddiqi believes that before 2020 Islamists will hold power in Washington.

One can hope a private management firm will resolve the charity debacle soon, but the issues of government eavesdropping and Islamic political ascendancy require our individual vigilance. "We're all soldiers," President Bush has said. In the sense of taking individual responsibility for our way of life, I agree.

References,2933,37688,00.html - Red Cross story - O'Reilly column - Farah article,10738,2780166,00.html - ZDNet Echelon eavesdropping. - Echelon Watch - Pipes' article

George Smith is full-time freelance writer with a special interest in liberty issues and screenwriting. His articles have appeared on Ether Zone, and in the Gwinnett Daily Post, Writer's Yearbook, Creative Loafing, and Goal Magazine. He has a web site for screenwriters and other writers at

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