Freedom or Security: The Consequences for Democracies Using Emergency Powers to Fight Terror

Freedom or Security: The Consequences for Democracies Using Emergency Powers to Fight Terror

Freedom or Security: The Consequences for Democracies Using Emergency Powers to Fight Terror

Freedom or Security: The Consequences for Democracies Using Emergency Powers to Fight Terror

Synopsis

Several democratic countries have used emergency powers to restrict or suspend individual liberties in order to fight terrorism more effectively. Emergency powers are controversial in their potential to undermine democracy and civil liberties. Freeman challenges popular arguments of both the supporters of emergency powers, who focus on their expected effectiveness, and the critics, who focus on the dangers.

Excerpt

While the September 11 attacks focused America’s attention on terrorism, these attacks are only part of a broader pattern of violence in which the United States is the target of terrorists. For example, on April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds more. In addition, just two years earlier on February 26, 1993, an Egyptian terrorist attempted to topple the World Trade Center in New York. Although the bomb failed to bring down the buildings, six people were killed and thousands were injured. After these earlier incidents, United States citizens demanded that the government “do something” in response to terrorism. During the year after Oklahoma City, Congress debated legislation that became the Anti-Terrorism Bill, which was signed by President Clinton on April 24, 1996, almost exactly a year after the Oklahoma City bombing. Although directed primarily at foreigners living in the United States and not United States citizens, this legislation generated considerable controversy, with some scholars claiming it contained “some of the worst assaults on civil liberties in decades.” Controversy has again erupted over the government’s response to terrorism following the September 11 attacks. Congress quickly passed the Patriot Act, which allowed the government to detain foreign citizens for an extra 24 hours, tightened controls over student visas, and loosened wiretap restrictions. Additionally, the administration also decided to try suspected terrorists in military courts, rather than civilian courts. The controversy over these particular anti-terrorism measures illustrates the justified concern that governments will restrict liberties when confronted by a terrorist threat. Moreover, with the most

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