Interest is considered as a person’s main motivation for doing things. (Haggins 2008: 3) It is the primary reason that impels a person to act. Individual interest, however, is distinct and separate from national interest. Theoretically, national interest transcends the other kinds of interest such as the individual interest, political interest or even public interest. The concept of national interest is one of the most often repeated words in debates in session halls, policy meetings and discussions and even in television.
It is a concept that is difficult to define. It is not only susceptible of different interpretations but it is one that is often abused by the government officials who often use the term to promote their own interest National interest pertains to the pursuit of the interest of the nation as a whole. According to Haggins (2008: 3), national interest as a concept is meant to define the aggregate of things that guarantee the survival and flourishing of a nation-state and nation.
For instance, the protection of the security of a nation against threats both domestic and foreign and the protection of the country against terrorist groups are examples of the acts that promote the national interest On the other hand, public interest refers to the interest of the aggregate collective of citizens – independent of state institutions. Some examples of public interest are the right to privacy, the right to freedom of expression and the freedom of religion.
Privacy is defined as the “ability of an individual or group to keep their lives and personal affairs out of public view, or to control the flow of information about themselves. ” In the United States, the right to privacy is not specifically mentioned in the United States Constitution. However, the Supreme Court in a number of cases has affirmed the right of the public to privacy. In fact, it has interpreted the Third Amendment, Fourth Amendment and the Fifth Amendment and the Ninth Amendment as giving the citizens and residents of the United States the right to privacy.
The right to privacy is affirmed in the case of Roe v. Wade where the Supreme Court ruled that: “This right to privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent.
” In the United Kingdom, the right to privacy is protected under Art. 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Convention. While the pursuit of national interest remains as the primary goal of every nation, it is not always easy to promote national interest. It is possible that the other interests may be sacrificed in favor of the pursuit of national interest over the public interest. In these situations, is it justifiable to sacrifice of individual interest for the promotion of national interest?
It must however be stressed that the concept of national interest does not necessarily oppose the concept of public interest. Indeed, these two interests are not necessarily contradictory to each other. However, in practical terms, these two terms often find themselves in contrast with each other. II. National Interest One of the most pressing threats to national interest is the problems posed by terrorism. On September 11, 2001, several individuals thinking that they had a noble cause attacked the United States.
Several days and weeks after the unfortunate event, the Bush Administration in response to the terrorist attack and in their desire to bring the perpetrators to justice proposed certain measures aimed at protecting the national security of the United States and at the same time reducing the risk of future attacks. One of these laws was the USA Patriot ACT. This antiterrorism law was justified on the basis of the existence of the clear and present danger of terrorist attacks.
Even before the United States passed the USA Patriot Act, the United Kingdom has passed a number of laws aimed at combating terrorism. (Guardian 2009) The first of these anti-terrorism laws was passed as early as 1970s in an effort to combat political violence in Northern Ireland. Before the 9/11 attack, the United Kingdom has also passed the Terrorism Act of 2000. Other anti-terrorism laws were Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, the Terrorism Act of 2006 and the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008.
(Guardian 2009) It is in the best interest of the United Kingdom to enact these laws. In times of national crises and emergencies, the government should be empowered to engage in actions that would otherwise not be allowed in situations where there is no national crisis or emergency. In times of national emergencies, the powers of the government should be broadened to allow the government to protect the integrity of its territory against terrorist threats.
While the objective of giving the government broader powers is to protect the national interest, questions are raised about the limits of government power. Is national interest sufficient justification to curtail rights and civil liberties? Is protection of national interest more paramount than the collective rights of the public? In the United States, the passage of the USA Patriot Act was hastened by the public demand for the government to protect the public against terrorism.