- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2002

Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty not to be evicted from Czech Republic

I was disappointed to read Jan Nowak's Jan. 25 Op-Ed column, "A victory for terrorism."
First of all, the author, a distinguished and knowledgeable gentleman, should have checked the basic facts before writing his column. It is not true that the Czech government "has reportedly decided as a matter of caution to evict the long-established American broadcasting services Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty (RL) from their broadcast center in the heart of Prague." To my knowledge, there has never been any debate as to whether RFE and RL should leave Prague or the Czech Republic. The issue being discussed is whether RFE and RL should be relocated because of security concerns. The government of Prime Minister Milos Zeman has never planned to "evict" RFE or RL from the Czech Republic. Quite to the contrary, Mr. Zeman has discussed the matter several times with Craig Stapleton, the U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, and together they have concluded that the U.S. government will support the relocation of RFE and RL, under certain conditions, to a different, more secure location in Prague. In other words, if more secure premises for broadcasting can be found, the U.S. government will endorse the relocation. As of today, a new location has not been found, and the RFE and RL have not been "evicted" from their place in the heart of Prague. As a matter of fact, Radio Free Afghanistan recently commenced its broadcasts to Afghanistan from their studios.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan met with Mr. Stapleton and RFE/RL Director Thomas Dine on Tuesday. They agreed that RFE and RL will go on broadcasting from the Czech territory and that the question of their relocation will be solved by the beginning of June. Until then, the broadcasting services remain fully operational in their original location.

Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States
WashingtonAs a longtime subscriber to your paper, I appreciate the positive interest you regularly display in covering Central European affairs and particularly developments in both the Czech and Slovak republics. By the same token, I remember and respect Jan Nowak as a very effective Cold War activist who in the past alerted American public opinion to the dangers of international communism while denouncing it to its Polish victims.
For both these reasons, therefore, I find it regrettable that his recent column "A victory for terrorism" strayed from the line of objective comment. To my knowledge from available sources, the Czech government does not intend to "evict" Radio Free Europe from the country but would prefer to see it relocated to a less vulnerable site in the Prague metropolitan area. Though not made openly, threats to the RFE station certainly are more than imaginary and demand a responsible evaluation from the political as well as human angle. The present premises of the studios in Prague have been adapted from the former Communist Parliament building. The "superb equipment" there certainly could be relocated. Conversely, the studio's emplacement is hardly "highly secure," situated as it is above a central metro concourse next to the main car-traffic artery in the immediate vicinity of the State Opera House, the main railroad station (named, incidentally after President Woodrow Wilson) and one of the proudest Prague landmarks, the National Museum. It is, indeed, in the very heart of the city.
Insisting on the security of these historic and highly populated sites should not be viewed as capitulation before Osama bin Laden and his criminal gang. The concept of war was altered radically on September 11. We do not live anymore in the time of cavalry bravados against cannon and tanks but have to cope instead with anonymous terrorist threats from suicidal fanatics for whom terms such as "honor" and "civic courage" are nothing but empty and laughable relics from the past.
As to the "unfortunate stereotype" of the Czech Republic surrendering to external challenges, Mr. Nowak should tread cautiously on that ground when implying comparisons between his native country and mine, especially with regard to Munich in 1938.


Vladimir M. Kabes is a human rights lawyer and international consultant in the District.

Student surveys and the Constitution

In the Jan. 29 Culture story "All that schools survey," surveyors offered numerous reasons why public schools should permit them unfettered access to students. It is not surprising that these data gatherers wrap themselves in that moneymaking phrase, "It is for the children." Those five words have proved to be irresistible to many with the best of intentions. They proved irresistible to social-service entities, our school board president and other institutions in my hometown of Ridgewood, N.J., which fell for them and encouraged our school district to administer the Search Institute's Profiles of Student Life, Attitudes and Behaviors survey.
After several parents complained, the U.S. Department of Education investigated and ruled recently that 66 of that survey's 156 questions were asked illegally of minor children, who were all deceived into taking this "voluntary" survey. When did 100 percent of students ever volunteer for anything? According to our administrators, they did in Ridgewood. These kinds of questions constitute nothing short of a mental strip search, and there are no conditions under which this sort of questioning should be permitted absent parental consent, a lawyer and a licensed therapist.
It is no surprise that the surveyors you interviewed find New Jersey law "excessive." They feel that they already have our children, so why make them ask permission to interrogate the youngsters? They fail to understand that they do not grant our rights. Opting out for which they have coined the euphemism "active dissent" presupposes that the data gatherers possess my rights and that it is incumbent on me to assert those rights by asking them not to survey my child. I don't think so. Asking surveyors for my inalienable rights is un-American. Would they have us ask for the other rights spelled out in our Constitution?
After two years of investigating these survey entities, I have come to believe that what we have here is a cottage industry with huge growth potential and that the data gatherers earn their keep by first exploiting our children. Can they honestly say that reporting in a newspaper that X percent of children have tried marijuana by the 10th grade will somehow keep my children from trying it? Come on, now. We all know that adults perpetrate more illegal and anti-social acts than children do, so why aren't the data gatherers surveying them? Could it be because of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights? It seems that those documents are all that stand between the surveyors and the rest of us, and soon, with the help of the U.S. courts, they will stand between the survey takers and our impressionable children.
While our new law means that New Jersey is safe from these surreptitious surveys, the Rutherford Institute is spearheading the legal effort on behalf of three Ridgewood parents, which we hope will make it clear to public school officials everywhere that the administration of such surveys absent parental consent is unconstitutional. First, it compels speech in violation of the First Amendment; second, it is an unreasonable intrusion into the household in violation of the Fourth and 14th Amendments; third, it violates the substantive due-process rights of adults to raise their children as guaranteed by the Fifth and 14th Amendments; and fourth, it contravenes rights to privacy under the Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendments.
The data gatherers' need for this information does not rise to the level of my rights as a parent to raise my children as I see fit, my rights to privacy or my children's right to remain silent. Irrespective of what the surveyors say their data tell them, it is no mystery to us parents why field-trip permission forms get returned and survey permission forms do not.

Ridgewood, N.J.

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