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Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Preserving Our Liberties While Fighting Terrorism

NCJ Number
Timothy Lynch
Date Published
June 2002
24 pages
This document discusses the steps taken by the Government after the terrorist attacks that could limit the freedom of Americans.
Government officials have responded to terrorist attacks by proposing and enacting “antiterrorism” legislation. Policymakers claim that they can prevent terrorism by curtailing privacy and civil liberties of the people. The fact is that the President and Congress are not capable of preventing terrorist attacks from occurring. There is a danger that the American people will lose what they are fighting for--their freedom. Defense and intelligence experts know that it is only a matter of time before the next terrorist attack. When it does happen, policymakers should deliberate four issues: accountability, history, reality, and liberty. The question of how well the government has used the power it already has should be examined. There is a general unwillingness to hold government officials accountable for failure. Historically, the Federal Government has not shown respect for individual American citizens, the law, and the Constitution. Policymakers should consider the lessons of history before they decide to confer more power on the government. In a free society, the Government is rarely able to prevent a crime before the fact. Curtailing privacy and liberties for nothing more than the illusion of increased security is a disservice to the citizens of this country. It is the responsibility of elected officials to defend Americans from foreign aggressors without violating the safeguards set forth in the Constitution. With the recent antiterrorist legislation, the Fourth Amendment has been undermined in two ways. First, the President has the authority to exclude the judiciary from the warrant application process by issuing his own arrest warrants. Second, the probable cause standard has been diluted for citizens and noncitizens alike. Under the President’s military order, he will decide who can be tried before a jury and who can be tried before a military commission. His eavesdropping initiative strips apprehended suspects of the longstanding privilege of attorney-client confidentiality. If the present trend continues, America may drift toward national identification cards, a national police force, and more military involvement in domestic affairs. 99 notes