Last week America was rocked by the cold-blooded murder of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Unlike the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Orlando shooter appears to be a lone gunman who, while claiming allegiance to ISIS, was not actually working with a terrorist group. About the only thing Orlando has in common with 9/11 is the way power-hungry politicians and federal officials wasted no time using it to justify expanding government and restricting liberty.
Immediately following the shooting, we began to hear renewed calls for increased government surveillance of Muslims, including spying on Muslim religious services. Although the Orlando shooter was born in the US, some are using the shooting to renew the debate over Muslim immigration. While the government certainly should prevent terrorists from entering the country, singling out individuals for government surveillance and other violations of their rights because of religious faith violates the First Amendment and establishes a dangerous precedent that will be used against other groups. In addition, scapegoating all Muslims because of the act of one deranged individual strengthens groups like ISIS by making it appear that the US government is at war with Islam.
The Orlando shooting is being used to justify mass surveillance and warrantless wiretapping. For the past three years, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Defense Department appropriations bill limiting mass surveillance. But, last week, the same amendment was voted down. The only difference between this year’s debate and previous debates was that this year defenders of the surveillance state were able to claim that the Orlando shooting justifies shredding the Fourth Amendment.