Staff editorial: Enforcing justice or abusing power?

By The Mac Weekly

Several weeks ago, one of our very own, Bassam Khawaja ’11, had his dorm room raided by the Saint Paul police. A search warrant was issued on the grounds that Bassam contained paraphernalia with potential for criminal activity. The warrant contained a list of items that matched the description of a person at the RNC who was seen committing vandalism. Out of the items the warrant allowed the police to take, which ranged from legal papers that proved occupancy to red shoelaces, only documents related to anarchist activity were allowed. Let’s be realistic. Bassam is definitely not the only Mac student with anarchist literature, let alone red shoelaces, in his room, but we don’t see the St. Paul police breaking down any of their doors. Moreover, the warrant was extremely vague in its description of the person who had supposedly been vandalizing at the RNC. Almost have of SDS protestors were dressed like the warrant described,

We all know how much tighter national security got after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. With the creation of color-coded security levels and the passage of legislation such as the Patriot Act, American society was suddenly rampant with paranoia. Everyone was suspect, and the notion of government forces raiding your house or invading your personal life no longer seemed absurd. Most of us noticed this upsurge of fear exclusively the media; maybe we’d experience an inconvenience at the airport by being randomly searched (although darker skin usually means a higher chance of being pulled aside).

The news of a Mac student having his room raided is a reminder of the very scary fact that with the word of a single judge and the force of a few officers, anyone’s privacy can be invaded. Being at Macalester, it’s easy to feel like we live in a microcosm that follows it’s own set of rules, impervious to the forces of the outside world. We see all sorts of things on our campus that would be socially unacceptable in many other places, from men nonchalantly wearing dresses to anarchists freely propagating their philosophy. The recent police invasion is not only a burst of the Macalester bubble, but also a reminder that the legacy of the Bush administration’s authoritarian policies. It’s an unfortunate legacy that our country doesn’t seem to be able to escape, from the McCarthyism of the Cold War era to the torture techniques of Guantanamo Bay.

With Bush out of office, Obama seems to be taking our country in a new direction, one marked by significantly less human rights violations and a departure from a corrupt administration that thought it should and could do whatever it deemed necessary to stop terrorists. The incident with Bassam’s room isn’t just an issue for Macalester and St. Paul, but a reminder that we must keep our country on track, and not slump back down into fear and paranoia.