The civil liberties that are being enjoyed by the citizens today have been constitutionally granted without expressed limitations. It is also worth noting that the early generations who have fought for the various freedoms have realized the necessity of such in a democratic country. Various government curtailments have also been challenged and at the end of every battle, civil liberties have always been upheld. Through time, civil liberties being enjoyed by every citizen has been strengthened and given paramount importance. Furthermore, the government carries the burden of proving the need for the curtailment of any civil liberties.
Terrorism is definitely not among the justifiable reasons for the government to control, limit, or even to curtail any freedom that has been inculcated in the Constitution. The 9/11 terrorist attack cannot be a justifiable reason for the government to violate the provisions of the Constitution. Hence, threat to terrorism does not warrant curtailment of civil liberties.
Remarkably, barely 45 days after the horrifying 9/11 terrorist attack, the administration of Bush enacted the US Patriot Act. The Act primarily gave the government an indefinite authority to violate the provisions of the Constitution especially on privacy, due process, and warrant. Through the Patriot Act, the government is allowed to detain immigrants, tourists, foreigners who are suspected as terrorists. In addition, the detention can be longer than 48 hours which is only allowed by law.
The government cans also search the house, office, or dwelling of an individual suspected of terrorism. The alarming fact that goes with this authority is the secrecy of the search and the warrant. Hence, the individual being searched is put in a disadvantage position by the mere absence of information.
Furthermore, the surveillance system of the government has gone through beyond the usual. Every email, bank transactions, library use, and other activities believed to be terrorism-related can be legally traced and tracked by the government through a warrant taken secretly. Through the following authority granted to the government, privacy and other basic rights of individuals are curtailed.
As a defense, the government found the need for the Act or expanded authority basically because of the 9/11 terrorist attack. The security of the country has been alleged to have been attacked and at stake. In order to prevent further 9/11 or any terrorist activity, the government found the need to increase its security facilities, intrude into private activities of suspected terrorists which are actually limiting or controlling the freedom granted by the Constitution. However, the measure adopted by the government is obviously beyond reasonable.
After the 9/11 attack, several civil liberties supporters questioned the government’s act. Hundreds of immigrants were detained for more than the allowable detention time (Howard, Forest, and Moore, 2006). In addition, various bank transactions were tracked because it was believed to be a fund to a terrorist group. Furthermore, freedom of press and expression has been curtailed due to restraint or control imposed by the government. However, the acts only created fear and anger instead of sympathy or support to the government.
It is understood that both security and civil liberty are important in a democratic nation. However, when one is compromised, there would certainly be an imbalance and threat to democracy. It is quite noteworthy to look back at the history of the establishment of civil liberties.
The forefathers have fought for freedom because it was believed to be the greatest need of every citizen. In addition, civil liberties have been granted for being an essential factor of being a democratic country. Through times, civil liberties have been challenged in court yet it has been repeatedly defended and supported by the courts and the law. Hence, even threat of terrorism cannot be justified to curtail civil liberties. In any event that security and civil liberty clashes, civil liberty is always upheld. This is not as a disregard to the need for security. Instead, it is because it violates the very essence of existence. Furthermore, the government should adopt other means of securing the country without compromising the freedom which has long been supported by the law.
Howard, R. D., Forest, J. J. F., and Moore, J. C. (2006). Homeland Security and Terrorism: Readings and Interpretations. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.