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How Patriotic is the Patriot Act?: Freedom Versus Security in the Age of Terrorism Hardcover – October 20, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A Carter administration advisor on domestic affairs, Etzioni is director of the Institute of Communitarian Policy Studies at George Washington University. Beginning with poll data and crime statistics, Etzioni takes as a premise that public safety measures can be crucial to democracy, but not that "any and all" safety measures enhance liberty. He then goes on to detail security measures undertaken in the U.S. since September 11th; review levels of privacy and security in differing forms of electronic communication, as well as the possible threats they pose; assess the threat of bioterrorism; debate the possibility of national ID cards; and probe the possibilities of nation building for national security. He finds parts of the Patriot Act "reasonable and necessary" (the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) and others "troubling" (military tribunals). All of his arguments are footnoted, most are brief and a few, such as strengthening public health, "would be in the community’s interest even if no further acts of terrorism were to occur." While seemingly not comprehensive given the Patriot Act’s enormous heft, Etzioni’s brief treatise makes for a reasonable starting point for debate.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Etzioni concerns himself less with the Patriot Act itself than with broader questions of how well in a post-9/11 environment American society can protect citizens against terrorist threats without damaging or discarding those individual rights that are the nation's legal hallmarks. He enumerates a host of challenges that modern technology poses to individual freedoms. His views on dealing with attacks on public health from biological weapons include some potentially controversial remedies. In assessing likely threats and benefits from national identification cards, Etzioni lays bare the ubiquity and uselessness of state-issued driver's licenses, currently the nation's most accepted certificate of identity and its most often counterfeited. Etzioni saves his most profound criticism for current American efforts to build democratic societies in countries lacking either the social or political institutions and traditions within which to build rational orders respectful of individual rights and tolerant of diverse opinion. Readers looking for a rigorous legal encounter with the Patriot Act may be disappointed, but Etzioni has provided a very approachable resource for student essays and debates. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (October 20, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415950473
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415950473
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.6 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,455,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert B. Smith on March 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
On Amitai Etzioni's How Patriotic is the Patriot Act?: Freedom versus Security in the Age of Terrorism, comments by Robert B. Smith, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Patrick Henry proclaimed, "Give me liberty or give me death!" Amitai Etzioni asks: If you are dead, what good is liberty? He then assesses the trade-offs between stricter governmental security measures designed to prevent deaths due to terrorists, and the consequences of these measures for reducing freedom. Drawing upon interpretations of the fall of Germany's Weimar Republic (pp. 12-14), Etzioni suggests that governmental ineffectiveness will precipitate a breakdown of democracy. To preserve its legitimacy after 9/11, the US government needed to effectively combat terrorism; the Patriot Act, with all its flaws and restrictions on liberty (p. 9), was designed as a means to that end.

An alternative interpretation of the breakdown of democracy in the Weimar Republic explains the reasons for governmental ineffectiveness as the result of the polarization between the far Right (the aristocracy, big business, nationalists, and antisemites) and the far Left (communists); all of these groupings denied legitimacy to the Republic at its inception. Their failure to support the Republic prevented effective governmental actions that would minimize the impacts of hyperinflation and unemployment. It was in this environment that Hitler rose to power. He was not elected to office; rather a group of ultra conservatives persuaded the senile von Hindenberg to give Hitler power, which he then used to restrict civil liberties, annihilate Jews, and wage war (Henry Ashby Turner, Jr., Hitler's Thirty Days to Power: January 1933. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1996).
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Format: Hardcover
As compelling as it may seem, the "Geniuses" in Washington have come up with a whopper of a lie this time. "We need to spy on otherwise law abiding citizens to secure our nation". At the same time we get what we deserve, because we as a nation have become complacent. We seem to feel the folks in Washington will ensure our Constitutional rights. After all they took an oath to do so-right?

This author opens up the whole can of worms, tells us just exactly what the government is snooping in. What you do on-line, which web-sites you visit, how much money is in your savings account, and whether or not your check book is overdrawn. Wow! They also want to know if you have a library card, and what books you read if you have one, and listen in on your call home to mother. All in the name of security. At least that is what they say. We cannot, or wiil not secure our "Swiss Cheese Borders", or secure our ports, but we can listen in on your phone call, just because we can.

This author explains the shadeness of National Security, and how the government will use any excuse to spy on its citizens. At the same time it does appear we are asleep. Why just last week it was revealed the FBI has been doing just what the alarmist said they would do with this power, over step the boundaries, and dig into the business of the innocent. You know what we heard was only about 20% of the whole picture.

If this book does not remind you of the Secret Police in some Commmunist nations I do not know what will. Take the Government, and pair it with the likes of Choice Point, or Axiom, and how much information collectively they have on the average American, and we may as well be walking around naked in public.

For an eye opening look at just what we as Americans have given up in the name of Security, read this very revealing book, and make up your own mind, as to whether or not this remains the land of the "FREE".
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Format: Hardcover
In the new book, HOW PATRIOTIC IS THE PATRIOT ACT?: FREEDOM VERSUS SECURITY IN THE AGE OF TERRORISM (Routledge, 2004), a communitarian way of thinking is applied to one of the hottest topics of the day. The author, Dr. Amitai Etzioni, argues that when it comes to national security we face two profound commitments: protecting our homeland and safeguarding our rights. Demonstrating that extremism in the defense of either security or liberty is not a virtue, the book charts a middle course between those who are committed to the preservation of our liberties but blind to the needs of public security and those who are willing to sacrifice our cherished freedoms for the sake of preventing terrorism.

For the unfamiliar, communitarianism is a moderate brand of political and sociological philosophy that seeks to balance rights and responsibilities in our society. Led by Dr. Etzioni, The Communitarian Network actively seeks to engage people in this ongoing discussion of communitarian thought, policy, and society, and very much encourages anyone interested in joining into a dialogue to e-mail the Communitarian Network office at comnet@gwu.edu.

Below are comments from various leaders and scholars about the book.




"Amitai Etzioni presents a thoughtful assessment of the controversial post 9/11 measures and proposals that undermine civil liberties in the name of national security. Even for those of us who disagree with some of his conclusions, this book provides valuable insights into the essential task of maximizing safety while minimizing invasions of liberty."

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