Security and Freedom
Professor Brian Smentkowski,
Department of Political Science
Presented at the Department of Political
Science Symposium 2 on Terrorism in the 21st Century
Crisp Hall, Dempster Auditorium - 10 October 2001
Two perspectives on security:
But aside from our immediate infatuation with freedom from fear, what is freedom?
Clearly, it is the latter, but this observation begs us to address three important questions:
The point of this is to demonstrate that, while it is
important to comprehend the role security plays in re-establishing our
collective sense of freedom from fear and uncertainty, it is equally important
to contemplate the tendency to sacrifice freedom -- liberty-- for security.
This latter consideration presently is the less popular theme, for security and military operations trump all other actions –including the respect for civil liberties. Just ask the 90% of Americans who support the war effort.
Our track record is clear, but the question remains: Where do we stand now?
We can answer this question by looking in 4 directions:
o This war will take place under unprecedented secrecy.
o The day after the American response, Bush declared that too much information was already circulating/leaking out; that only congressional leaders and intelligence members will receive –and be expected to keep secret—information.
Clear restrictions have been placed on the number and placement of
--and reports from—journalists.
The Attorney General
o Four major titles pertaining to wiretapping, detention & deportation (including expanded definitions of terrorism), restrictions on appeals, and financial infrastructure.
His public information campaigns can be interpreted variably as
vigilance- or paranoia-inducing.
Legislation currently being debated
o Wiretapping provisions that would blur the line between criminal and intelligence work, allowing greater intrusion into personal lives;
o Easier monitoring and data gathering of telephone numbers dialed/received, as well as internet and e-mail traffic. Under the rubric of “relevant to an ongoing investigation”, there would be minimal judicial supervision of investigation; therefore broad latitude for FBI.
o Greater access of business records, with usual --and usually confidential-- links to educational-, medical-, and personnel information. The FBI would need only qualify its request by noting that materials are for an intelligence operation. Again, intelligence is a broad concept.
o No expiration date on investigative information.
o Easier detention and deportation without evidentiary hearings and based largely upon AG certification that there are “reasonable” grounds to believe that non-citizens in question endanger national security. Note how difficult, almost impossible, it is to re-enter a country after acquiring such a label.
o More secretive searches (delayed notification) in intelligence and criminal investigations.
o Redefining domestic terrorism: Protestors=terrorists if they engage in “acts dangerous to human life.” Also, those who lodge or assist such terrorists could be wiretapped and prosecuted.
A debatable sunset provision. How much of this, for how
long? Consider this carefully, since Rumsfeld has suggested that this will be
more like the Cold war than the Persian Gulf war.
4. The streets
614 detentions, hundreds of false arrests, and hundreds more
suspects. But the informal suspicion and intolerance are at least as important
as the official stuff.
In the final analysis, what matters most about this
discussion of freedom is the way we live our lives.
Freedom is diminished not only at the national level, in the aggregate, as when we all learn to cope with new fears of terrorism, but when groups in particular begin to feel vulnerable because of their religious or ethnic identity; when we look over our shoulders and wonder if we sound unacceptably unamerican if we dissent from the conduct of military affairs or object to the overtly religious tone of a president’s speech; or when we discuss the rationale of anti-Americanism and terrorism.
Freedom is not “just another word for nothing left to lose.” We have plenty to lose, including the American ethos. Are we willing to change who we are and what we are in order to feel more secure? If so, then terrorism has won: the American spirit is dead. We are not what we were individually, collectively, or societally. We’re free to be something other than ourselves. That’s not freedom. It’s not even security.
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