September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

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From: x
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001 09:53:19 -0400
To: x
Subject: FW: The Big Lie


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------ Forwarded Message
From: x
Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2001 23:21:19 -0700 (PDT)
To: x
Subject: The Big Lie

The Big Lie
Brigid McMenamin, Forbes.com, 09.17.01, 1:10 PM ET

Must Americans sacrifice their liberty to achieve
safety? The knee-jerk reaction to the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks on the U.S. has been to say yes. Two
out of three Americans are willing to surrender civil
liberties to stop terrorism, according to an
ABC-Washington Post poll taken the day after the
attacks.

"I'm puking every time I hear that," says Baltimore
lawyer Thomas Bowden. "The idea is to compromise their
lifestyle. We keep ours the same."

The Big Lie
Brigid McMenamin, Forbes.com, 09.17.01, 1:10 PM ET

Must Americans sacrifice their liberty to achieve
safety? The knee-jerk reaction to the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks on the U.S. has been to say yes. Two
out of three Americans are willing to surrender civil
liberties to stop terrorism, according to an
ABC-Washington Post poll taken the day after the
attacks.

"I'm puking every time I hear that," says Baltimore
lawyer Thomas Bowden. "The idea is to compromise their
lifestyle. We keep ours the same."

It's also irresponsible to suggest waiving civil
rights. Take the bill passed by the Senate two days
after the attack. It would permit police to tape
phones and seize Internet records without a search
warrant. That would leave Americans vulnerable to even
greater evils.

"It is something we will all regret down the road,"
says Timothy Lynch, a constitutional law expert with
the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think
tank.

Most threatened is the Fourth Amendment prohibition
against unreasonable searches. Does that safeguard
have to be scrapped to search airline passengers more
thoroughly? No, it doesn't.

Airports already use machines sensitive enough to
detect a box cutter. Luggage and people are already
searched, but these searches don't raise
constitutional issues, unless a government is
involved. The Constitution restricts only official
actions, not private ones. Courts agree that people
can't expect much privacy in airports anyhow.

What about when police are involved? They usually need
a search warrant before raiding a home or tapping the
phone. But police seldom have trouble persuading a
judge to sign one. The standards are lax, especially
when a terrorist is involved. This week America Online
(nyse: AOL - news - people) and EarthLink (nasdaq:
ELNK - news - people) cooperated with the FBI
investigation by providing information about certain
subscribers, according to the Washington Post.

"This is already constitutional," explains lawyer
James Harper, a privacy advocate and former counsel to
the House Judiciary Committee. So why waive the Fourth
Amendment and allow the government to eavesdrop and
seize records without a warrant? Is the Justice
Department trying to exploit a crisis for illicit
purposes?

"Sometimes they take advantage of these tragedies,"
sighs Lynch, citing antiterrorist laws inspired by the
bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City in
1996. Sacrificing rights didn't work then and it's
dishonest for law enforcement to pretend that waiving
civil rights now will work, either.

Even if giving up some rights would help some,
Americans shouldn't do it. That would be a victory for
the terrorists, who sought to destroy a way of life.
Even temporary measures tend to become permanent, as
the British have discovered since the 1970s, when they
waived some rights to thwart bombings by the Irish
Republican Army.

Giving up rights might even lead the U.S. into
autocratic rule--which is what the terrorists want and
what the Founding Fathers were trying to prevent when
they wrote the Bill of Rights. America is built on a
healthy distrust of government power. In the words of
Ben Franklin, "Those who trade liberty for security
will have neither."

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