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Should the need to protect the nation from terrorism outweigh the rights of individuals...

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happyangel4real | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted March 30, 2011 at 7:44 AM via web

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Should the need to protect the nation from terrorism outweigh the rights of individuals to personal freedoms?

explain in detail for or againt the nation

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 30, 2011 at 7:53 AM (Answer #2)

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This is not a black and white question with a clear answer.  Clearly, the need to protect the nation does not outweigh all individual rights.  However, just as clearly, the rights of the individuals do not outweigh all attempts to stop terrorism.  What ends up happening is that there has to be a balance between rights and security.

For example, hardly anyone would argue that the government should be allowed to arrest (for example) all Muslims in America and place them in concentration camps.  If we did this, it might make the likelihood of domestic terrorist attacks lower.  (I am not arguing for this or saying that all Muslims are terrorists.  I am just giving an example.)  However, that would clearly be too great of an imposition on personal rights.

At the same time, there are many who agree that the government should be able to do more in the way of warrantless wiretapping phone calls between the US and suspected terrorists abroad.  Such wiretapping would infringe on people's liberties, but that extent of infringement might not be too much to pay for added security.  Similarly, Americans generally accept the intrusive tactics of airport security because terrorist attacks are much more horrible than this sort of invasion of our freedoms.

Overall, then, there still has to be a balance.  We can't give up all freedoms, but we also can't be dogmatic about freedoms and refuse all attempts to combat terrorism more vigorously.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 30, 2011 at 12:54 PM (Answer #3)

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Your particular question seems to be aimed at the propriety of the USA PATRIOT Act, which gives governmental agencies far-reaching powers to restrict terrorist activities. I have problems with many of the aspects of the act, especially when overzealous law enforcement officers and politicians use it to obtain personal information that is not truly terrorist-related. Check out the eNotes link for this subject for more information.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USA_PATRIOT_Act

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 31, 2011 at 4:28 AM (Answer #4)

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I must admit that I always err on the side of the individual in such debates. Whilst of course it is important that combatting terrorism does involve some measure of sacrifice of personal freedom, it is the extent to which this can be taken that concerns me. Fear is a terrible thing in terms of what it can cause people to do, and we can find out that we have sacrficed far more than we have ever baragained for in exchange for greater "saftety." Also, rather cynically, I just don't trust any government or government body with having private information relating to any individuals. The potential to abuse that power is immense.

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted March 31, 2011 at 5:35 AM (Answer #5)

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I can't help but to answer this question as a mom! When the bombs went off in the tube in London's Underground all I could think of was whether my student daughter was safe, not about civil liberties although as a a principle I generally feel that these are very important. So I was in favour of ID cards in the U.K. as an extra protection, although I know many were not. I feel most people would be be prepared to overlook the occasional genuine mistake in the light of tighter security for all.

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 31, 2011 at 5:56 AM (Answer #6)

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President George W. Bush once said that "freedom isn't free." While the rights guaranteed to all Americans are precious; they are not absolute. Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once commented that freedom of speech does not give one the right to cry "fire!" in a crowded theater. If we are to remain both free and safe, some sacrifices are necessary. No one likes sacrifice; it isn't fun, and it often means one must forgo certain rights which one might not wish to forego; but the price of absolute assurance of rights is anarchy. No one in his right mind would support such a program. I personally was quite offended by the young man who made a big production of his being patted down at the airport; and had the foresight to record it on his cell phone. He obviously planned ahead of time to challenge the search. We need people like that to remind us of the importance of our rights from time to time; but there can be no question that sometimes rights must give way to security.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 31, 2011 at 7:49 AM (Answer #7)

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It's a large sacrifice to make for what, to me, is not our biggest threat.  9/11 was horrible, shocking and the loss of life as the loss of our feeling of security.  But to sacrifice key rights from the Constitution (right to privacy, right to travel freely, right to an attorney, right to be charged with a crime or released, right to a speedy trial, freedom from cruel or unusual punishment) for 308 million people because a handful of fanatics attacked us as part of a largely incompetent, outwitted and outmatched organization such as al-Qaeda, seems an extreme overreaction.  It seems to add to their victory that they have been able to alter our democracy in such a key way with a few bombs and a suicide attack.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 31, 2011 at 10:06 AM (Answer #8)

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Personally, I think we've gotten too far off the deep end about personal freedoms.  It's to the point now that the minority groups actually rule the country, and that is not my understanding of how democratic societies work.  The majority determines what is best for society as a whole...which, in turn, means that we as individual will have to give up certain rights within reason.  We can not speed (dangerous to ourselves and others), we can not yell "fire!" in a crowded public place (same reason, although it negates the freedom of speech), if we want safety and security, we must forego the expectation of privacy in public places (cameras at intersections and ATMs, government regulations of internet use, etc.).

So, in answer to your question, personal freedoms will have to be sacrificed if we want to be "safe" from terrorism.  The government will have to have eyes and ears on the ground, so to speak.  Since America is not a homogenous society (like South Korea or Japan) where all citizens have similar looks in terms of hair color, eye color, height, skin tone, etc., we can expect a certain amount of racial profiling.  Like it or not, it will occur.

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justaguide | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 31, 2011 at 7:34 PM (Answer #9)

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Personally, I think we've gotten too far off the deep end about personal freedoms.  It's to the point now that the minority groups actually rule the country, and that is not my understanding of how democratic societies work.  The majority determines what is best for society as a whole...which, in turn, means that we as individual will have to give up certain rights within reason.  We can not speed (dangerous to ourselves and others), we can not yell "fire!" in a crowded public place (same reason, although it negates the freedom of speech), if we want safety and security, we must forego the expectation of privacy in public places (cameras at intersections and ATMs, government regulations of internet use, etc.).

So, in answer to your question, personal freedoms will have to be sacrificed if we want to be "safe" from terrorism.  The government will have to have eyes and ears on the ground, so to speak.  Since America is not a homogenous society (like South Korea or Japan) where all citizens have similar looks in terms of hair color, eye color, height, skin tone, etc., we can expect a certain amount of racial profiling.  Like it or not, it will occur.

A democracy doesn't mean that all those who are outnumbered in society do not have any rights. You could argue then that if the number of male voters outnumbered the number of women voters they could decide the fate of women and confine each of them to living within the house. After all, women would be the minority and men totally justified in taking any decision as they are the majority. If women tried to demand their rights it could be called "the minority group ruling the country."

I have always felt that this is one of the necessary evils of democracy, that the minority is bound to be suppressed and has to fight for its rights.

In no country around the world is there a homogeneous society, its just that in the US things have been taken to extremes. If for one in a million people following Islam (that is bound to happen, with Islam the most widely practised religion in the world), turning out to be a terrorist all the other 999,999 are labeled as national threats and punished for nothing that they did, aren't more of them bound to turn towards terrorism.

I do not know how this problem can be solved, on several occasions I have found myself doing all that I have written against here.

But I am sure there is an alternative, its just that we keep missing the forest for the trees.

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mrs-nelson | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted April 1, 2011 at 11:43 AM (Answer #10)

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In my experience in the Criminal Justice field (being an ex- Probation Officer) the person who is being questioned about their "personal freedoms" always believes it is only about them.  The officer doing the questioning is thinking about the hundred other cases he just witnessed where the culprit was participating in or exhibiting the same behavior and it ended badly for everyone. 

In most cases if the government feels that a persons individual freedoms need to be restricted it is because they know a lot more than we do. There is always a bigger picture that we are not privy to.  I don't believe the government creates reasons to take away freedoms without an honest belief in a serious threat.  Therefore, I think that protecting the nation from terrorism (or other threats) does outweigh the rights of individuals to personal freedoms.

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age21dress | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 24, 2011 at 8:44 PM (Answer #11)

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I strongly believe that the war on terror is completely necessary. I understand that people's privacy is compromised sometimes with security pro-cautions. But this is highly necessary to keep every one safe.

The Taliban will stop at nothing to undermine and kill innocent people to make a stand. We need to fight back with every last inch of our effort to not let them get away with it. Just two days ago an Australian special forces soldier was killed in Afghanistan. He paid the ultimate sacrifice. It is needed though and soldiers hold the highest level of my respect for doing a job that frankly many people don't have the guts too. 

I and I'm sure many people agree with me are willing to sacrifice a tiny amount of privacy to keep our land safe and support the troops in Afghanistan. 

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