Government Responsibility

At what point does the government have a responsibility to the people to be open and honest?  Now, in general, of course, the answer is always.  But I mean specifically with regard to safety and security issues.

Let me elaborate with what got me thinking about this.

This morning there was an unusual number of NYPD officers on the subway platform where I catch my train.  Sometimes, you’ll see one, maybe two, cops standing on the platform.  This morning, there were seven.  One of the people I was with asked them what was up, and they answered “just a regular patrol.”  Now, that’s clearly not the case, as it was a seven times heavier police presence than regular patrol.

I don’t think that there was necessarily a particular threat against my E train platform.  But I began to wonder: what if there was?

Do I have the right to know if the police have specific intelligence of an impending attack on, say, the subway system?  Shouldn’t I be allowed to make the decision to walk to work or take a cab instead of the subway?

Sure, that sounds nice.  But on the other hand, if every time there was something up it was announced, people would go nuts.  Either they would start to ignore the warning (which is a bad thing) or they would behave in such a way as to impede law enforcement’s efforts to stop/catch the perpetrators.  Obviously, there has to be some balance about when people are told, and when they aren’t.

Where is that line?


5 responses to “Government Responsibility

  1. Isn’t that always the debate? I lean toward “hopefully our government is honest, reasonable, and will tell us if we DO need to know”, because otherwise we’re all screwed anyway. Basically, let those who DO know the threats determine what should and should not be shared.

    In addition, knowing all of what the government knows all the time would also theoretically lead to criminals and terrorists determining how they got that information, based on what they do/don’t know, which would mean the end of all agents and info they get.

  2. Oh, and it could have been a regular patrol – they might do a walkthrough of different stations on a reasonably regular basis, say, every couple months. But I’m inclined to believe that it wasn’t, as well. 🙂

    You know something is happening when my Rockefeller Center stop suddenly balloons from the 0-4 spaced out cops to a couple dozen who are rather attentive and searching people’s faces, especially as it’s on a very irregular basis.

  3. Don’t have an answer for you – that’s why it’s important that we elect and appoint people who have/use good judgment.

    As for the patrol, it probably was routine. I know that the NYPD has put in place programs where they will have many officers converge on one place in a maneuver of sorts. They also have a program where they will choose one subway/train and flood it with officers doing routine checks of the cars as a preventive measure. I’ve seen it on the subway and on the LIRR where one officer will enter every car and look around.

    Check out the last paragraph on the page below:

  4. Not to scare you but depending on whether there was an increased police presence elsewhere, it could be the result of Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination yesterday. America and Israel are the two more likely culprits. NY is a target so they might just be trying to play it safe in case someone decides to “retaliate.”

    On the issue of the post I basically agree with Ezzie. We need smart leadership because the population is informed all the time it will have a detrimental effect on how people live. We don’t want people living in fear, so we don’t tell them when their lives are in danger. Only when people knowing about it is a good thing do we tell them.

  5. Do you remember Operation Atlas? The NYPD would (seemingly, to an outsider,) randomly converge on an area en masse, as part of a general counterterrorism strategy. Could be loosely related to something like that. It doesn’t have to be anything threat-specific.

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