Are civil liberties and homeland security opposing concepts in the United States? Are civil liberties and homeland security opposing concepts in the United States?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is certainly a tension between these two concepts.  They are not mutually exclusive, but it does seem that we have to take away from one to get more of the other.

We could probably have a greater degree of freedom from the fear of terrorism if we would do away with our civil liberties (assuming we spent enough money to let the government set up a really effective system).  The government could do surveillance on suspect people and could minutely search anyone getting on an airplane or going near a federal building or other target (again, this would take huge amounts of money).

Alternatively, we could have more freedom.  We could prevent the government from ever tapping our phones or using scanners to inspect our bodies before we board airplanes.  This would probably make terrorist attacks more likely.

So, these two ideas are in some ways opposed to each other, even though we can have fairly high levels of both at the same time.

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I think they can be. Ideally, we have the right to civil liberties as long as our liberties do not interfere or take away from the freedom of others. In the US, we value equal rights so we must ensure that one person's freedom is not at the expense of someone else's. Since 9-11 and other recent events, civil liberties and homeland security have clashed. To what extend do we infringe on civil liberties for the safety of the country? Is it okay to take one person's liberties to protect society at large? These are difficult questions. Certainly, there have to be some limits of freedoms and civil liberties or we would have anarchy. I do believe homeland security can take things to extremes and thus take away some civil liberties. Of course, they are only doing their job in trying to protect this nation. I suppose I can see the argument from both sides.
enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm assuming by the phrasing "civil liberties" what you mean are Rights.  By "homeland security" I assume you mean the country's security.  The purpose of government is to safeguard Rights, and every individual in the US has a Right of security.

But they also have a Right of privacy.  The question is how much and individual can exercise his or her Right to privacy when the Right of security is threatened. There are not opposing concepts, and one does not preclude the other;  the challenge is to get the delicate balance between these Rights correct.

vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pohnpei's response is excellent. I would simply add that without sufficient homeland security, civil liberties could be severely curtailed for a number of reasons. For instance, if a terrorist group ever succeeded in setting off an atomic bomb in the U. S., there is no telling what kinds of emergency measures would be imposed.  So far, the government seems to be doing a reasonable job of mantaining civil liberties while also protecting homeland security.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Personally, I think it is impossible for a country to be completely secure and its people completely free. That being said, you can balance it more on the side of freedom of the people. We do give up our freedom for security. It doesn't have to be that way. Maybe the television show Person of Interest has the right idea- have computers spy on us instead of people. :)
literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have to support Pohnpei's post as well. Homeland Security can infringe on the rights of people (seemingly at any time they wish based upon any aspect which may set off a "red flag"). I think that there are definite points where the two cannot exist at the same time.