Benjamin Franklin stated that 'they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.' Although the Bush Administration must be familiar with the famous words uttered by one of our most-distinguished statesmen, they apparently consider them out of fashion.     If the Bush Administration has taken note of these words of a framer of the Declaration of Independence, it obviously thinks his warning is outdated.  That is, unless, this Administration really believes that their dragnet approach has made us safer.  Let's look at the facts.  But the question remains of whether assaults on human rights mounted by President Bush and his Attorney General, John Ashcroft, have made our country safer.

In reaction to the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11th, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that over 1,200 people of Arab background or Muslim belief had been detained.  This was followed by 'voluntary interviews' of Arab and Muslim males, some citizens included, that were anything but voluntary  . Then he announced, NSEERS or 'Special Registration' that required  almost 80,000 people visiting Our Land of the Free, all male nationals principally from, you guessed it, Arab and Muslim countries , to be photographed, fingerprinted and interrogated either upon arrival or, if already here, at a designated immigration office. On December 2, 2003, the Justice Department announced the suspension of some of the requirements of the Special Registration program.

Many American citizens knew about the well-publicized detention program, but have had little reason to be aware of its results or of even existence of the Special Registration program, because neither has been given much publicity.  But most Americans of Arab or Muslim descent have been highly conscious of both the detention program and the Special Registration program, considering them egregious examples of ethnic profiling and intimidation.

But again, Have these programs made us safer?

First, the detention program.  Not one of the 1,200 individuals detained has been charged with anything more than visa violations.  Yet the Department of Justice's own Inspector General, Gerald Fine, stated that the detainees were incarcerated for too long (an average of over 80 days without charge), were kept in harsh  conditions (shackled, in solitary confinement), and were often denied contact with  relatives or lawyers.  In many cases their families were not even told that they were detained or where they were being held.   Some detainees were jailed far longer than the 80-day average.  For example, Nabil Ayesh was picked up just outside of Philadelphia on September 11th, 2001 for having an Arabic bumper sticker on his car and held for over a year with no charges filed against him.  He was finally deported for visa violations.  If any terrorist connection had been found, Ayesh would never have been deported.

 As if the detentions without charges were not enough, the Department of Justice started the 'Interview Project' in the winter of 2001-02. The goal was to interview 5,000 people of Arab descent who were already in the U.S. and even some U.S. citizens of Arab descent.  From all reports, not one terrorist showed up to be interviewed and little was learned from those people who did.  Yet, the program was repeated targeting an additional 5,000 men, again with no known results. While the DOJ claimed that these voluntary interviews were not discriminatory even though they selectively targeted Arabs and Muslims, they certainly led to discrimination after Law Enforcement officials showed up at jobsites across the country.  Soon many Arab and Muslim men reported harassment at the workplace and many were dismissed from employment.

Then the Special Registration program or NSEERS.  Its suspension speaks for itself, but perhaps it should be noted that the program's rules were so unclear that INS officials were not even sure who was required to register. Some INS officers actually turned people away who were supposed to register. Not prepared to deal with the large numbers of people who showed up for registration, many individuals were again detained in harsh conditions. Again no charges of terrorism or terrorist connections resulted from this program involving almost 85,000 designated people, although nearly 15,000 of them were subsequently put into deportation proceedings (mostly for technical visa violations) , hardly a course of action that would be taken if the interrogations had discovered any links to terrorism.

Results of these massive intrusions on civil liberties have been costly and ineffective in achieving their intended purpose of public safety.  Instead of providing comfort to Americans, they have understandably enraged Arab Americans and American Muslims.  Furthermore, they have become notorious among Arabs and Muslims abroad. In addition, tens of thousands of hours of potentially valuable Law Enforcement time was wasted, including at least 62,000 annual hours now gained by the suspension of Special Registration. (DHS's own figure) not to mention the impact of lost trust by great segments of the Arab and Muslim community in America

One can imagine tart-tongued Ben Franklin taking note of the inconsistency of these actions with the Administration's stated goal of making the Arab and Muslim world follow the rule of law and become democratic.  Can we really achieve that high-minded objective by lecturing, 'Do as we say, not as we do'?

All Americans should demand that the President take on the role of a champion of civil liberties.  Franklin also famously observed, 'We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.'

Marwan Kreidie is Executive Director of the Philadelphi Arab-American CDC, teaches political science at Villanova Univeristy and is a Civil Service Commissioner for the City of Philadelphia.