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 communitys interest even if no further acts of terrorism were to occur." While seemingly not comprehensive given the Patriot Acts enormous heft, Etzionis brief treatise makes for a reasonable starting point for debate.
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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 KnoblauchCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved