The PBS documentary series Frontline broadcast a special report yesterday on “The Enemy Within: A Case Study of America’s Response to Homegrown Terrorism.” This is available for viewing online, along with a website with interviews, readings and links. The focus of the report is on several high-profile cases intitially reported as al-Qaida terror cells on American soil. Now that the judicial process has taken its course, not always in the interest of justice as the report shows, it turns out that there is no evidence anywhere of al-Qaida terror cells here in America. This administration has made protecting Americans from terror such a mantra that security agencies have sent out agents cock-sure radical Muslim extremists are swarming out of suburban mosques. We have heard the cry “Wolf” so many times now, that it should come as little surprise that most of the time all we are seeing are sheep fleeced into wearing wolves’ clothing.

One of the main cases exposed is that of a supposed terror cell operating in Lodi, California. A totally unreliable Pakistani (who claimed he once saw Ayman al-Zawahiri in the Lodi mosque) was hired undercover to smoke out the terrorists. After paying this man $250,000 and listening to his overt taped attempts to badger a high-school dropout into going to a jihad camp, the government officials showed no shame in sending a young Pakistani (and almost sending his father, who drives an ice-cream truck for a living) to prison for a forced-confessed crime that no shred of evidence supports. This is a moral meltdown.

As I watched the non-verbal discomfort of the U.S. Attorney defending his trumped-up case against the Lodi defendants (and finally admitting on camera that there is no evidence this had anything to do with al-Qaida), I was caught once again in that existential limbo of laugh or cry. I laughed out of fear that if I started crying, I would not be able to stop. Here was a man elected to protect people bragging that he had prevented the development of a terror cell by deporting two imams who had been illegally taped and wiretapped for several years and had come across totally clean.

President Franklyn D. Roosevelt is credited with the notion that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. His exact words in his first inaugural, as America tried to pull itself up by its economic bootstraps) were:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Roosevelt was right, of course, but he left something important out. We also have good reason to fear those who foster fear to terrorize the innocent and naive. A gutless congress has recently handed an anything-but-guileless president and his conservative anti-think tanksters the power to terrorize anyone they decide may be a terrorist. Hocus pocus and habeas corpus disappears. Feel safer yet? Well, you can always move to Lodi, now that our government has cleansed it.

Daniel Martin Varisco