I confess: I suspected the Idaho murders criminal investigation was being botched. Instead, it was using chilling surveillance tools
The charging documents so far revealed in the University of Idaho students' murder investigation are both comforting and chilling. I suspect that I am far from alone in having gotten impatient with the length of time we saw no signs of progress in the media, and I may have made some unkind assumptions about the investigatory prowess of the small-town police department that was the first agency on the scene.
So it is reassuring that the alleged perp of the horrific crime is under arrest and was methodically kept under surveillance and that police in Indiana — acting at the behest of the FBI — even stopped him twice while driving home to Pennsylvania to covertly observe his hands, looking for indications of involvement in knife violence. If Bryan Kohberger, the accused, is convicted of the crimes and punished, we can all breathe a sigh of relief and congratulate the police agencies involved — the Moscow, Idaho P.D.; the Idaho State Police; the FBI; the Indiana Highway Patrol; and local authorities in Pennsylvania — for getting their man.
YouTube screen grab (cropped).
And yet, it is disconcerting that the highly politicized and anti-conservative FBI is able to track our movements with surveillance videos and cell phone pings and match our DNA to a sample in its possession even if we've never had a DNA test ourselves, using relatives who have subscribed to 23 and Me, or otherwise have entered DNA databases that police can access.
As it happens, mass murder or any other violent criminal activity is not on my bucket list, so do I have anything to worry about? I think I do, given my conservative political orientation and propensity for free thinking and expression. Conspicuously absent from the police work so far revealed is any involvement of Google, Facebook, or any other social media. But does anyone doubt that once Bryan Kohberger was a person of interest, his record of internet searches, social media history, and other aspects of his online life were given close scrutiny?
We live in an era where words are characterized (almost exclusively on the left) as "violence," and a woman engaging in silent prayer was arrested in England for a thought crime. Is it really paranoia to wonder if the panopticon capabilities of the police will be brought to bear on political dissidents (up to half the country that voted for Trump)? Ask the parents in Virginia who were characterized as terrorists for publicly complaining about their school board covering up sexual assault by a "transgender" student.
Back to the Moscow, ID P.D. I am not one who assumes that Idaho is a backwater and that officials there are incompetent. I have good friends who long ago chose to move to the state and make their adult lives there. I've visited Idaho (most recently the summer before last) a number of times and even seriously considered moving there myself, decades ago. It is both scenic and one of the sanest places in the country. I like the people there very much and would be happier to live among them than among Californians.
But I did wonder if the small-town P.D. bungled the crime scene at first, and if the state cops were up to the challenge. I am glad that my doubts were misplaced. I am also glad that a suspect with lots of evidence against him is going to face trial. But I am scared that the tools used to identify, follow, and incriminate him might be misused for the purpose of political oppression by a justice system that has become warped and corrupted at the highest levels and is now used to oppress one side of the political spectrum.