September 29, 2005

US governor stands by mosque wiretapping comments

By Jason Szep

BOSTON (Reuters) - Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, mulling
a White House bid in 2008, on Thursday stood by his comments in
favor of wiretapping mosques after religious leaders stepped up
demands for him to take them back.

Civil rights groups and Muslim leaders have blasted the
Republican governor since he raised the prospect on September
14 of putting some Muslim students and their teachers under

On Thursday, Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders delivered
a petition to his office signed by 75 people from a dozen
religious groups urging him to reconsider his views.

Romney refused, telling Reuters in an interview that
attacks by Islamic terrorists in London and the United States
justify stronger scrutiny by U.S. authorities on activity at
mosques in America.

"I would devote more resources to those efforts than we are
currently doing as a nation. That includes carrying out normal
surveillance and wiretapping and other measures that are
permitted under the Patriot Act of the Constitution," he said.

Enacted after the September 11, 2001, attacks, the Patriot
Act gives the government unprecedented powers to investigate
suspected terrorists, allowing authorities to search personal
records from bookstores and use electronic eavesdropping.

"I'm not suggesting that we violate the law, just that we
do more of what we are already doing," he said.

"Specifically if there is someone who is teaching a
doctrine of hate or terror or murder or overthrow of the
government, we should follow that person wherever they go, even
if it is a mosque, or a synagogue or a church," he said.

"In the past, the attacks have been related to teachings
going on in mosques, and for that reason I think it's totally
appropriate to pay attention to what is being taught by
individuals preaching hate and terror," he said.

His comments echoed those in his September 14 speech to the
conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington in which he
outlined suggestions for strengthening intelligence-gathering.

The petition delivered to Romney said it was unfair to
single out one religion and that preachers of "doctrines of
hate and terror" could be found in every religion.

"To target an entire religious community based on the words
or deeds of a few people is to replace our system of
individualized suspicion and responsibility with one of guilt
by religious association," it said. "This path leads away from
the rule of law and toward faith-based persecution."

Romney, elected governor in 2002, has staked out
conservative positions on a number of sensitive social issues
ahead of a likely White House bid in 2008.

He said he would decide by mid-December whether he will run
for re-election in 2006 as Massachusetts governor.