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Bartlett concerns are security, freedom

January 04, 2002

Bartlett concerns are security, freedom



By DAN KULIN
dank@herald-mail.com


U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett said Thursday the efforts to protect the country from terrorists may be too much and not enough.

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Bartlett, R-Md., said he's concerned that heightened security jeopardizes our freedoms.

But Bartlett, at the Hagerstown Regional Airport to thank National Guard troops in charge of security there, said that while the nation is focused on increasing security at airports, "they are only one part of our infrastructure."

For example, power stations and substations are relatively unprotected, Bartlett said.

"Nothing protects them except a chain-link fence," which Bartlett said couldn't stop a "dump truck full of explosives."

"But if terrorists hit another (target) are we going to have security everywhere?" he asked.

"Freedom and security. The more you have of one the less you have of another. There is a limit, and for me we may have passed that point," he said.

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Bartlett said he's heard of a man from San Diego who was arrested because he's of Middle Eastern descent.

The man was taken to Chicago and while being held there missed exams and flunked out of school and his landlord kicked him out. Bartlett said the government later determined the man had done nothing wrong.

"We need to at least compensate them for their losses," Bartlett said.

Bartlett said he worries about the precedent set by recent actions taken in the name of fighting terrorism.

"Now we have incarcerated over 1,000 people because we thought they might be supporting terrorists. And they are being treated differently than normal criminals. They are being held without phone calls and without access to attorneys. ... My concern is who is tomorrow's terrorist? The abortion clinic protester? The union member going on strike? I'm concerned there's a slippery slope," he said.

Bartlett, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said there needs to be a compromise.

Comparing the situation to automobile safety, Bartlett said that when there is a crash during a car race, the driver usually walks away from the accident thanks to a seat belt, fireproof suit and helmet.

If the general public took such precautions, there wouldn't be 40,000 deaths or hundreds of thousands of "life-altering injuries" every year, Bartlett said.

But for some reason people have decided that the convenience of cars is worth the cost, he said.

"There must be compromise," he said. "And with airport security, how much is enough?"

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