Rudy Giuliani: Electronic monitoring devices for people on the terror watch list would be an excellent idea

A leftover from earlier this week. The New Jersey paper that squeezed this quote out of Giuliani describes him as a Trump advisor, which is true, but as far as I know Trump himself hasn’t said anything about a proposal like this. Yet.

What inspired the question was the news that one of the ISIS degenerates who beheaded a French priest in Normandy was already under suspicion of jihadist sympathies and was wearing a monitoring device during the murder. It was deactivated at the time as part of his daily furlough from house arrest, but even if it had been on, it’s hard to see how it would have helped French security act quickly enough to avert the attack. (“He’s entering a church, scramble”?) It’s really hard to see how it would stop a jihadi from walking into a public place like a restaurant, which he might have an innocent reason to patronize, and shooting that place up — and it’s exactly that sort of soft target that ISIS disciples have shifted towards over the last two years. Yet here’s Rudy talking up electronic monitors.

“I would think that’s an excellent idea,” said Giuliani, an adviser to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. “If you’re on the terror watch list, I should you know you’re on the terror watch list. You’re on there for a reason.”

Giuliani, who is advising the Trump campaign on terrorism and national security issues, told NJ Advance Media he would recommend that Trump undertake the same measures being used in France if he’s elected.

One of two suspects who murdered a priest during an attack on a Catholic church in Normandy Tuesday morning was wearing just such a monitoring device during the attack. He was known to anti-terror authorities to have twice attempted a trip to Syria because he was wearing it.

The problem is that lots of people on the government’s terror watch lists aren’t on there for a compelling reason. That’s why conservatives have been in a lather this summer over the left’s “no fly, no buy” proposals, which would allow the DOJ to block gun purchases made by those who’ve been placed on a watch list. You can’t give government the power to take away someone’s Second Amendment liberty based on mere suspicion, without hard proof. (Never mind that people on the no-fly list have lost their right to travel without hard proof.) That’s why the GOP went all-in on John Cornyn’s bill, which would force the feds to go to court within three days of blocking a gun purchase by someone on a list and prove that they’re a genuine danger to the public. Due process requires judicial oversight when liberty is at stake. Being able to move freely without the government knowing your every move is another type of liberty. Would Rudy require a court order, at least, before letting the feds place an electronic tether on someone or are we willing to let Loretta Lynch make the call on this? Do note that the French jihadi had already been arrested en route to Syria to fight for ISIS and had been indicted on terror links. There was more than mere suspicion in his case.

Even if Giuliani’s willing to make concessions to due process, you have a potential problem lurking in what he says about how “I should know you’re on the terror watch list.” By “I,” I think he means that the public at large should know when someone’s on the watch list; having them wear a device in plain sight on their body would quickly become culturally understood as a warning to bystanders that the person sporting it is a possible terrorist. That’s likely to lead to … bad outcomes. It’s not so different, you might say, from sex offenders being forced to register and notify the people around them of their status, since that runs the risk of vigilante reprisals too. But the sex offender has been convicted of a crime in court. The person on the terror watch list has been convicted only in Loretta Lynch’s mind. You want them walking around wearing the electronic equivalent of a scarlet letter because of that? According to one estimate made in 2014, of the nearly 700,000 people on government watch lists, nearly 300,000 have no recognized terrorist group affiliation. That’s a lot of ankle monitors. Which, ironically, raises the risk that Rudy’s scheme would backfire: The more common the devices become, the less seriously bystanders might treat them as a warning about the person wearing them.

Eh, this’ll probably end up in the same category as mass deportation and the worldwide ban on visas for Muslims, proposals that Team Trump don’t earnestly intend to carry out but which usefully signal to voters how politically incorrect he is. While the media’s sighing about Khizr Khan’s speech last night, Rudy’s talking about electronically branding watch-listers. It won’t stand up in court and he knows it, but it’s solid “messaging.” Speaking of which, if you missed it elsewhere today, here’s Trump’s effective new web ad attacking Hillary. It’s well done (although lighter on jobs rhetoric than it should be), and it shows Team Trump exhibiting admirable message discipline. Too bad the candidate himself is still screwing around at his rallies with old business from the primaries.