How Patriotic Is the Patriot Act? Freedom versus Security in the Age of Terrorism

How Patriotic Is the Patriot Act? Freedom versus Security in the Age of Terrorism

How Patriotic Is the Patriot Act? Freedom versus Security in the Age of Terrorism

How Patriotic Is the Patriot Act? Freedom versus Security in the Age of Terrorism

Synopsis

In his most recent State of the Union Address, President Bush called upon Congress to enact legislation that would extend the time-limited provisions of the controversial anti-terror law known as the Patriot Act (they are scheduled to expire on December 31st, 2005). Championed by Attorney General John Ashcroft and approved by Congress in the fearful aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Patriot Act has been cast by its critics as the greatest threat to our civil liberties since the Alien and Sedition Acts or the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War. Yet, as Amitai Etzioni argues, 'any reasonable deliberation about our national security is the recognition that we face two profound commitments: protecting our homeland and safeguarding our rights.' In this short book, Etzioni, the well-known and respected public intellectual and communitarian thinker, charts a middle course, or third way 'between those who are committed to shore up our liberties but blind to the needs of public security, as well as those who never met a right they are not willing to curtail to give authorities an even freer hand.' This book will prove a useful guide for citizens looking for a thought provoking, well-reasoned and sober analysis of one of the hot button issues of our time.

Excerpt

One central thesis of this volume is that the starting point of any reasonable deliberation about our national security is the recognition that we face two profound commitments: protecting our homeland and safeguarding our rights. Those who, in effect, seek to suspend major parts of the Constitution and its Bill of Rights until we win the war against terrorism must realize that this is a long-term war and, hence, provisions that might apply for a very short period, during a dire state of emergency, cannot be applied here. To live for any length of time without the rule of law that makes us what we are is not an option, nor should it be. Equally fallacious are the notions that nothing changed on September 11, 2001, and that the fear of future attacks is merely used by the government to keep the people fearful and willing to yield ever increasing power to the state. There is room for much deliberation as to exactly what must be done and whether there is a need for some limited trade-offs. But the starting point for such an assessment is that we are committed to being both free and secure. True patriots thus realize that one must protect the nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that the essence of what it means to be patriotic is to protect our Constitution and its Bill of Rights with all of our might.

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