Balancing Civil Rights (Natural Rights) and Security in a Democratic Society : LUSENET : Stories of Compassion and Courage in the Recovery of New York : One Thread

from the Online Newshour Forum - Oct. 8, 2001

Both President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft have publicly prodded Congress to quickly approve legislation during a time of what Ashcroft calls "clear and present danger" of future terrorist attacks.

Ashcroft has asked Congress to grant law enforcement officials unprecedented power to detain immigrants indefinitely, to allow greater grand jury information to be disclosed, and to ease restrictions on wire-tap and search petitions.

"Until Congress makes these changes we are fighting an unnecessary uphill battle," Ashcroft said. "[W]e are today sending our troops into the modern field of battle with antique weapons. It is not a prescription for victory."

Critics in Congress and at watchdog groups warn against any hasty approval of the legislation, recalling the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and illegal surveillance of anti-war protesters in the 1960s.

The Patriot Act, hammered out by the House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and ranking Democrat John Conyers (D-Mich.), would deliver some, but not all, of Ashcroft's reccomendations.

Law enforcement officials would be permitted to wiretap all telephone lines and cell phones belonging to a suspect -- currently, warrants permit surveillance of only one line -- and monitor e-mail traffic with court approval.

The legislation would ease restrictions on obtaining bank and credit card records by allowing investigators to fill out an administrative form instead of having to procure a court order. Foreign nationals suspected of terrorism could also be detained as many as seven days without any being formally charged.

This provisions of this bill would be limited by a "sunset provision," meaning they would expire in 2003 unless renewed by Congress.

The Senate Judiciary Committee expects to turn over a separate bill to the Senate floor for discussion next week. Reports suggest that the Senate's provisions are closer to Ashcroft's initial recommendations. The Senate version would grant broader authorities to law enforcement and, critics charge, would further impinge upon civil rights.

What do you think? Does the "clear and present" danger justify the augmentation of law enforcement jurisdiction and possible limits on civil rights? Will U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have enough authority to preempt another terrorist strike in the U.S. and on U.S. overseas?

-- Anonymous, October 09, 2001


American Civil Liberties Union objects to pending legislation that facilitates the fight on terrorism but reduces Americans' protection from the intrusion of government into their lives.

-- Anonymous, October 13, 2001

I believe that this "augmentation" of security is fair and just. We are in a crisis here, and we simply can not let another terrorist strike happen again. I, myself, almost suffered a loss of family. My brother worked on the 105th floor of the second world trade center. Luckily, he showed up to work late and lived. That, right there, made me very frightful of another attack. What will happen next? I don't think this city should suffer anymore. Anyone who finds all this a great time to pull pranks by making false alarms about Anthrax, or any other stupid and immature acts should be punished severely. This isn't a time to laugh and giggle, this is a time for cooperation and support. This is most likely the reason why people oppose this augmentation: invasion of privacy. Yes, we all need privacy, but at a time like this? I'm sure the government would not bombard your house in the middle of the night, thinking you are a suspect because of a phone-call you made. Sure the lines will probably be tapped, but is it worth it? Hey, unless your a suspect, i wouldn't be worrying. We need to open our eyes and realize that this is not an issue about privacy, it's an issue about terrorism. This "augmentation" is not just a step, it's a step FORWARD towards the prevention of Terrorism. Terrorism can not be 100% prevented, but I believe this step that the government is taking gives us an edge. The enemy could be in our borders for all we know. We must look past the privacy concern and look towards cooperation and support. Have a good night everyone ;)

-- Anonymous, October 29, 2001

It is understandable to feel paranioa in a time like this. No one would have thought that anyone would have attacked the Twin Towers, let alone, us, on our own soil without any warning. The last time something like that was when? 1854?(* not exact date- But i think i'm close to it) If you ask me, thats a long time. Could it have been our arrogance which led us open for attack? Could it have been our niaveness? (is that even a word?) Were we too condescending?

After asking one's self these questions, there is further paranioa among people. "Lets bomb Afganistan!" seems to me like an attempt to feel further secure on our part. I read/heard somewhere that the bombing of Afganistan was simply to prove that we're not cowards. Of course, its a terrible thing to do. On September 11th, we cried, lit candles, and felt united...than almost a month later on October 9th, we send troops to drop bombs on Afganistan. I think it comes off as a little hypocritic, on our part.

Of course, there are other attempts for "security"/"protection." I am proud that we are more aware of our vulnerability. I am happy about the security measures taken on airlines. But I think that an invasion of privacy is going a bit too far. I think that people should keep perspective over the issue, and not try to obsess over it.

In analogy, there are plenty of sickos out there (its a given) and yet, not too many people( that I know) carry around tranquilizers, mace, or any other form of protection. If you want to be safe from the maniacs, take a self-defense class. I read in a newspaper about a couple of nuns taking a self-defense class, just in case they were attacked in Harlem (which is where their monestary was.)

To refresh: Keep perspective, and take only necissary basic precautions.

-- Anonymous, October 25, 2001

I think that security should be increased at this time but as long as it doen't go to far. In history in a time or crisis people may turn to dicator who they believe is a strong leader. I don't think that it will come to that here in America because so many people have died in the past to try to perserve democarcy. That was the reason we had fought wars "to defend freedom" according the bush and if is going to limit the rights and privacy of the people when he is just being a hypocrite. (oh well my parents didn't vote for him anyway!) ok like on the news they told us how this guy go arrested because he put powered cheese into an envolope and mailed it to his friend with the return address saying mohmmad. his friend would have known it was just a joke but the mailcarrier saw it and reported it. the post office in california was closed for days. the guy got arrested! it was just a joke! ok i know now is not the time to make such jokes but their taking away our freedom because of fear! "we have nothing to fear but fear itself!" other types of pranks can occur over emails and telphone are they going to take away our freedom of speech? what do they mean by detain immigrants indefinitely? are they going to do a reapeat of what they did to japanese americans during World War II? Or are they going to have a halocaust for muslims this time? I hope it never comes to this and i think the american are better that.

-- Anonymous, October 23, 2001

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