Security vs. Liberty? (Politics & Government)

Article excerpt

"Can We Be Secure and Free?" by Thomas F. Powers, in The Public Interest (Spring 2003), 1112 16th St., N. W., Ste. 140, Washington, D.C. 20036.

The expansion of police powers in America since the terrorist attacks of September 11,2001, has civil libertarians crying out about the loss of liberty--and conservatives invoking the need for security. But the debate has been wrongly framed and is needlessly divisive, argues Powers, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

The American Civil Liberties Union and kindred groups have strongly criticized the Bush administration on a number of points, including "extraordinary detention, the civil rights of noncitizens, government secrecy, and the treatment of terrorist captives outside the United States." But most of the controversy has been about "due process" issues, Powers says. The biggest concern of civil liberties advocates is that the 2001 USA Patriot Act and other measures have made it easier for government agencies "to conduct surveillance, use wiretaps and searches, obtain access to personal records, and track and question designated groups," such as Arab and Muslim non-citizens.

Change in these areas was inevitable, Powers writes, Terrorism, by bringing war to American soil, and by requiring local police forces to join the military in what amounts to war fighting, requires fresh thinking about civil liberties. …