Blogs > Liberty and Power > More Bullying in the Name of Homeland Security

Aug 8, 2005 5:03 pm


More Bullying in the Name of Homeland Security



As many feared, one big cost of the War on Terror and Other Stuff We Don't Like has been the violation of civil liberties under the pretext of national security.  For what appears to be another example of this phenomenon, take a look at this story (brief registation may be required) out of Louisiana:

For 27 years, Willie Fontenot has had a unique job in the office of the Louisiana attorney general. As a community liaison officer, he has helped residents living next to polluting industries learn more about the environmental problems plaguing them, helped them set up numerous nonprofit environmental groups, and helped them maneuver their way through the paperwork necessary to complain to public officials. He's also helped reporters and various groups from across the nation find the right people and places in Louisiana to explain its environmental problems.

Two weeks ago, while accompanying one of those groups, this one of 15 university students from New England, on a tour of a Baton Rouge neighborhood being bought out by the ExxonMobil refinery, the group was stopped and questioned by law enforcement concerned about homeland security after taking pictures of the plant. Fontenot was asked to collect the student's driver's licenses and refused, saying he wasn't leading the trip. On Monday, Fontenot, 62, said he was told to retire or face a disciplinary hearing that would end in his firing. Concerned about the loss of his pension and health insurance, he chose to retire.

Kris Wartelle, spokeswoman for Attorney General Charles Foti, denied Fontenot was forced to retire, but could confirm that he was retiring....

The students from Antioch New England Graduate School in New Hampshire were touring the state to learn about environmental racism, and the photographs were to be used in PowerPoint presentations required for their class, said Abigail Abrash Walton, a professor who led the trip.

"We had just met with (Baton Rouge) Mayor Kip Holden and went out to drive around and look at the industry in the area," she said."We came to a house directly across from the facility and Willie let us know that the woman who lived there had decided not to relocate.

"So we pulled the van over on a side street and the students got out and took photos," she said.

"Two or three minutes later, two security vehicles showed up," she said, and off-duty Baton Rouge police and East Baton Rouge sheriff's deputies pulled the van over and demanded the licenses of those inside.

I have no great sympathy for the set of ideas that falls under"environmental racism" (although a good public choice/libertarian class theory analysis of corporate-state partnerships in creating these situations is long overdue), but if it is true (and there's more detail in the link) that this guy was fired for doing what appears to be his job in the name of"homeland security," then something seems very wrong. One need not believe that the Patriot Act etc. are intentional plots by the dreaded neo-cons to silence the ideas of the left to be outraged by the use of homeland security rationales to, apparently, target uppity activists from anywhere on the political spectrum. 

One other comment:  when you present cases like these to many conservatives, they wind up saying things like"well, that was just some over-zealous individuals and really doesn't represent what the policy is all about."  Funny how similar that sounds to"all those stories about problems with public education are really just about a few bad teachers or out-of-control administrators/bureaucrats - there's nothing fundamentally wrong with the system."  When you give people political power to do what you think they should, don't be surprised when they do what you think they shouldn't.  And don't blame the people, blame the power.

Oh yeah, forgot to mention:  Fontenot is also blind and a cancer survivor, for whatever that's worth.


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