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Terrorism and the Constitution: Sacrificing Civil Liberties In The Name Of National Security Paperback – March 1, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
"In responding to the threat of terrorism, we must not trample upon the very freedoms that we are fighting for," say Cole and Dempsey, experts on civil rights law. Reminding readers that the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act, passed under the "influences of emotion and political posturing," was not only contrary to civil rights but also ineffective, they assert that a similar overreaction has occurred with the 2001 PATRIOT Act and conclude that there can be no trade-off between security and civil liberties.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Timely and important.... This is a book every citizen should read and act upon.
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Yet, what is new about the post 9/11 climate is the depth of these anti-terrorism policies and the general public's apparent willingness to sacrifice their freedom inexplicably to receive 'security'.
Whether it is the terror alert 'color' of the day, or the list of people who can/cannot fly on planes, national security could instead be used as a tool to generate even more fear...or a weapon to attack political dissenters.
A government effectively stifling criticism of its policies as `being for the terrorists' is allowed to do whatever it wants to citizens whenever it wants. Reminiscent of Nazi Germany, people who still attempt to critique government policy (including the Patriot Act) quickly find themselves labeled as an enemy of the state.
It is significant that the first edition of this book was published after the Oklahoma City bombing. Everybody had agreed this event was a national tragedy, yet the government did not use it as a battering ram to dismantle citizen civil liberties and/or eliminate people whom they have disagreed with. By focusing on case specifics, the Clinton administration found the people who were responsible for that incident (two disgruntled veterans from America's heartland!).
Sharply contrasting, the measures taken in response to 9/11 demonstrate excess and paranoia. "Homeland security" permits the Bush White House to target ANYBODY it does not like.
How else to explain why Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D MA)'s name has repeatedly turned up on the nation's no fly-list, despite a public service career whose length easily exceeds that of many "Homeland Security" officials themselves?
And then there is the issue of increased FBI surveillance to 'combat' terrorist threats. Again, because the FBI had spied on dissenting groups until Hoover's death, there is a strong case that this same government agency will not ethically be able to conduct impartial investigations today.
It is indeed a sad day when we want the rest of the world to be democratic but cannot bring ourselves to have similar conditions inside this same country. The greatest causality of the war on terror is the American Bill of Rights.
Now with 9/11 and the "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism" (U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T) Act (how much time, do you suppose, does it take to come with these acronyms?), the authors are back with a critical look at a drive towards what has very little to do with counterterrorism and quite a bit to do with increasing and centralizing power.
In the past 12 months we've had proposals for a national ID card, a missle defense system, legalized torture, suspension of writ of habeas corpus, a "homeland security" infrastructure that is heavily reliant on security technologies of dubious value. Basically the only thing that has changed that would have prevented the 9/11 are locked Cabin doors and the newfound general awareness that "cooperating with the hijacker" might not be the best policy for passeners.
Also along the way, a steady trickle of stories of missed opportunities, ignored warning and frustrated investingations have come out regarding the FBI and others to use the powers they already do have.
The bulk of the book deals with FBI misdeed during the Cold War and proposes an unfashionable counterrorism strategy that emphasizes the responsibility of actors, not ideology. Basically, trying to treat terrrorism as a crime not as war.
The proposals are a little narrow. Terrorism of the sort represented by al Quaeda is international, not just national. The fight against it will share more with racketeering and global criminal networks. And a world court is needed. I'm not sure if dealing on a purely "case-by-case" basis will do the trick.
Nevertheless, the authors have offered a well reasoned case and in the current climate when we are asked to give up so much with only the assurance of "trust us" we would do to heed their call.