Firefighters in major cities are being trained to take on a new role as lookouts for terrorism, raising concerns of eroding their standing as American icons and infringing on people's privacy.
Unlike police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel don't need warrants to access hundreds of thousands of homes and buildings each year, putting them in a position to spot behavior that could indicate terrorist activity or planning.
Sorta makes sense, and firefighters have always been required to report illegal activities they run across in the course of their work.
When going to private residences, for example, they are told to be alert for a person who is hostile, uncooperative or expressing hate or discontent with the United States; unusual chemicals or other materials that seem out of place; ammunition, firearms or weapons boxes; surveillance equipment; still and video cameras; night-vision goggles; maps, photos, blueprints; police manuals, training manuals, flight manuals; and little or no furniture other than a bed or mattress.
"Discontent with the United States"? OK, so much for reasonable.
Advocates of the fire service's intelligence role say privacy will not be violated. Homeland Security said if its program with New York is expanded across the country, civil rights and civil liberties training would be included.
Homeland Security only provides civil rights training in the context of "how to avoid being sued for violating them".