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The Washington City Paper for Jan. 27 might as well be called the “busybody” issue. First, we have Gail Kelley, a woman who’s decided that her mission in life is to harass people walking their dogs in the park across the street from her house.

Of course, it’s hard to sympathize with the dog owner who boasts, “I don’t have time for this crap. I have a house under renovation. I work for Congress.” But Kelley’s reason for taking pictures of people playing with their doggies and following them to their homes has got to be the most pathetic possible: They embarrass her because they’re white like her.

Maybe she should go to work for the FBI. Then she could get paid for harassing people like poor Yusuf Muhajir, who got sideways with the authorities apparently because of the way he dresses (“Does this man look like a terrorist to you?” 1/27). The fact that someone can be interrogated by the police for two hours in an IHOP parking lot over some innocuous snapshots on a digital camera should be enough to outrage every red-blooded American.

Unfortunately, few people seem to care these days, leading me to wonder how long it’s going to be before such incidents become a common part of life for all of us. People like Kelley stand ready to turn in their neighbors for infractions real or imagined, the courts and the Congress are giving the police long-sought-after ways to destroy the remnants of the Bill of Rights, and Bush’s War on Terror provides the justification.

When I was a kid, a standard reply to many questions was “Hey, it’s a free country.” I’ve noticed that people don’t seem to say that any more. The reason is obvious: It just ain’t true.

Alexandria