Does the threat of terrorism warrant the suspension or curtailment of civil liberties? Does the threat of terrorism warrant the suspension or curtailment of civil liberties?  

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to this must surely be "to some extent."  In other words, the threat of terrorism warrants some curtailment of civil liberties.  That amount rises as the threat of terrorism rises, but it does not (most people would argue) ever reach the point where the government should actually suspend all civil liberties.

Since the 9/11 attacks, we have come to accept much more in the way of incursions on our privacy than we once would have.  The Patriot Act is one example of this, as are the intrusive screenings and other rules that we must now follow while flying.  However, it seems unlikely that Americans would ever accept something really drastic like giving the authorities power to record calls within the US without any judicial oversight or the power to hold American citizens, arrested in the US, indefinitely without charging them.

Please follow the link below for a number of articles on the issue of civil liberties and terrorism.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I really don't think it does.  Did it warrant the radical transformation and improvement of airline security?  Sure.  Border security?  Absolutely.  But the right to fly and the right to cross a border unimpeded do not exist, that is, they are not now civil liberties.

The potential for abuse of surveillance powers, search and seizure authority, and detention without due process are, to me, simply too great a sacrifice for what I see as not much additional security.  Four times as many people are murdered each year in the United States as died in the 9/11 attacks.  While still a horrendous tragedy either way, I think the threat we face from terrorism has been overstated.

Many nations live with the threat of terrorism, but poverty, poor education, lack of health care are also threats to our way of life, and more serious threats in my mind.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I believe that the attacks intended for this to be warranted, and this is precisely why the first advice we received from President GW Bush, and many city majors and state governors, was to keep life as usual. The government was adamant in ensuring that we did NOT feel as if our lives as free Americans are over.

In fact, the freedom that came as a result of very cheap gasoline also resulted in the opportunity for many servicemembers and government employees to receive a myriad of incentives to initiate foreign travel, to plan road trips, and to enjoy their civil liberties the way they always had.

In short, although they tried to shake us, they did not break us. That is the gist of it all- That it is nearly impossible to cancel a way of life that brings so many opportunities for success, and which proves to be worthwhile.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Interesting take on things, looking at the range of views above! I think overall I side with #2. There is a sense in which civil liberties must be curtailed to some extent, as the needs of the many are greater than the needs of the few. If it can be guaranteed that this is done responsibly and in a way that does not transform the USA into an oppressive regime, as #5 suggests, I think we would all agree that such curtailment is fully justified. However, what concerns me is the way in which such power to curtail civil liberties can be massively abused, and arguably, is already being abused.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No!This is not a new issue, folks. Ben Franklin's comment seems appropriate: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." (1775)

I refuse to believe that the technological resources available today cannot be utilized to develop means of identifying and substantiating evidence concerning those involved in planning to carry out terrorist-related activities without depriving all members of the general public of their civil liberties.

justaguide eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No it doesn't. I would argue that a majority of the acts enacted by the federal as well as state governments are just meant to divert the attention of voters from the real issues affecting them which the politicians have been woefully unable to find a solution for.

The US, which for long was an inspiration for those who desired true freedom, has now become a nation with laws that could easily be equated to ones prevalent in nations around the World which lie under the most oppressive regimes .

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Don't blame the 9/11 attacks entirely on laws passed that restrict our personal liberties. Federal and state governments continue to do so on a regular basis. Florida just announced that the state was enacting 160+ new laws as of July 1, many of which are costing citizens of the state various personal freedoms. Some include a law which forces all welfare recipients to take drug tests; abortion restrictions; and an educational reform measure intended to outlaw "droopy drawers" in public schools.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I would argue that the threat of terrorism only warrants suspension or curtailment of civil liberties when there is an immediate threat. For example, if a bomb is in a train station the government may detain and search everyone. However, this does not mean that they can randomly search and detain people thereafter. Too often the threat is not imminent and the government uses it to keep people in fear in order to get away with removing civil liberties.
ttasker4 | Student

Didn't catch the link but I like the answer. Inevitably there is going to be some reprucusion for the events of 9/11 and the increase in terrorist activity such as the body scanners introduced by TSA. My question is perhaps a little vague. Maybe it would be better to redirect into, exactly how much change is nessecary, if any, and how much can people actually stand?