Ever since the bombing of September 11 2001, the American government has become wary of the effects of terrorist attacks to its citizens. A raging debate has since emerged and it seems it will continue into the future. In order to protect her citizens from further attacks, the government had to lay down restrictions regarding some affiliations and fundamental freedoms. According to the constitution of America and the Bill of Rights, every citizen is guaranteed to rights and freedoms. According to Stephens (2003), it is unfair if these rights and freedoms should be curtailed. This view is shared by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
As concerns the looming debate on protection of Americans, versus restriction to freedoms, a consensus should be struck. This is because; the security of the citizens can not be compromised to individual rights and freedoms. At the same time the security of the citizens should not be an impediment to these rights and freedoms. This is a bone of contention which the American government cannot overlook not unless it wants to be labeled undemocratic. History has a way of repeating itself. As such, this balance is much needed.
The Patriot Act which was accented into law in 2001 gives the government powers to acquire individual bio data as well as arrest people not citizens of America but who deem to be a threat to national security (Blum, 2003). Access to privacy by government security agencies is unrestricted according to this law as long as one has been suspected to be a threat.
This is inclusive of internet search besides other searches that can yield more information on a culprit suspected. The Attorney General has been give unsurpassed powers to hold in detention anyone (immigrant) who is suspected to harbor terrorist activities even before one can be charged by court of law and deported without being challenged. Terrorism according to this law is far and wide and is inclusive to cases of funding of organizations and associations which have link to terrorist activities.
Critics to this argue that more power has been given to the executive at the expense of the Bill of Rights which offers protection of freedoms to individuals in the country. In addition no checks and balances have been established to check on the executive powers. Spying is in total contravention to privacy and personal freedom.
Though the government is up to a level of control of terrorist activities, the level of immunity of its security agencies and the executive is too high. In a similar case, many families suffered blow following arrest of their family members who were detained for over a year at Guantanamo base in Cuba (Singleton, 2001). This is an act of severity and because no one can question the authorities, many innocent people remain to suffer under this repression.
Because of the dire consequential effects of this Act, many American counties are voting against it as a way of asserting their value for their freedom which seems clipped. Other groups advocating for freedom may also join in to fight for what they call their rights. Not unless some powers of security entities are abated, the debate is on, and it will continue.
As earlier discussed, it is not clear whether there is a specific point that freedoms seize to exist, nor is there a specific point that insecurity should lead to these suspension of these freedoms. It is in agreement that a clip of freedoms is essential for the security of each individual, but also, it is necessary to put into consideration the level to which such restrictions should be put and for how long.
The restrictions contained therein (Patriot Act) has some critical flaws in it. The First Amendment to this Act accords protection to the individuals guaranteeing them of their freedom of speech and assembly. In addition, it focuses on the highly contested issue of individuals seeking redress from the government for acts of detention which seem to contravene to the Bill of Rights and the constitution of America. It also guarantees the freedom of the media. Freedom of religion is also explicitly accorded contrary to whatever the Act has laid down.
These can be referred to as fundamental freedoms without which, democracy is just purported in the country. The establishment of the Patriot Act has worked against all these freedoms. This is because of what the government refers to as issue of security as earlier highlighted. This is because since October 2001such freedoms were limited severely.
The Fourth amendment guarantees freedom from unlawful search, subjective detention and arrest as well as biased and unwarranted trial. As Stephens (2003) puts it, “the right of the people should not be violated under any circumstances. In addition, no warrants should be issued under any probable cause which should be supported by an affirmation the search process”. However, the Patriot Act has way back scrapped this as all these have been violated as cited in the numerous cases known openly to the American citizens and the World.
The truth of the matter is the security is important as well as freedom. But the strict measures which have been taken by the government violate democratic freedom of the majority. These claw backs in fundamental freedoms are a disfavor by many in a country that claims democracy for all. Many innocent Americans find themselves under scrutiny by security agency officials. It leaves many to be deterred in free expression of ideas through the different channels including the internet. Extending a helping hand to organizations also is becoming tricky and freedom of religion is at stake. The government can boost security without having to compromise on the liberties of its citizens as well as its unaware visitors.
Blum, L. (2007). Race, National Ideals, and Civic Virtue. Social Theory and Practice, Vol. 33, p. 12-14
Singleton, L. (2001). Following a Tragic Event: A Necessary Challenge for Civic Educators. Social Education. Vol. 65, p. 25-27
Stephens, T. (2003). Civic Liberties after September 11. Retrieved august 21, 2010 from http://www.counterpunch.org/stephens07122003.html