In a post-9/11 world, what rights should we relinquish in favor of improved security?After the attacks on September 11, 2001, it gradually came to light that one of the causes of the failures in...

In a post-9/11 world, what rights should we relinquish in favor of improved security?

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, it gradually came to light that one of the causes of the failures in our intelligence was the fact that the FBI and the CIA seldom shared information. While some argue that these exchanges are vital to preventing a similar attack, others worry and argue about maintaining a proper distance and distinction between the criminal investigations of the FBI and the intelligence gathering mandates of the CIA, as such a breakdown might endanger the rights of citizens’ civil liberties. New laws, such as the Patriot Act, allow law enforcement and immigration officials wide discretion. Should Americans give up some of their civil liberties for a chance of improved security?

Expert Answers
Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I understand and respect your position.  My question is how do you ensure that the electronic eavesdropping is used properly... and who gets to decide what is appropriate or not.  Furthermore, if wiretapping doesn't stop the threat of terror what will people give up next. 

I believe our personal liberty and privacy are fundamental rights that were won with the shedding of blood.  I personally believe that the 4th Amendment to the constitution was added to the Constitution because illegal searches and seizures were a big problem to many of our Founding Fathers.  The British used Writs of Assistance to serve as "blank search warrants" that were used to serve then general public by stopping smuggling.  These writs of assistance turned into something much more malicious than they were designed to be, and the same thing could happen to electronic eavesdropping if it became accepted.

The right to be secure in our privacy and possessions is a fundamental right to all Americans.  Ghandi said "All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take."  I believe that if we begin to surrender some of our rights that it will only be a matter of time before they all disappear.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The big questions really are: Does "wide discretion" really provide "a chance of improved security" and could this "improved security" be gained through other means without giving up rights that form the rebel's foundation of American life? In my perspective, the Congressional decisions that were made after 9/11 that led up to the Patriot Act of 2001 were unconstitutional (requiring Congress to voluntarily step away from some responsibilities). Any things that follows out of unconstitutional congressional actions are themselves unconstitutional and potentially criminal. Therefore if the rights being given up are to accommodate unconstitutional acts and legislation, then no, no rights should be given up. If "a chance for improved security" needs to be had, then it must be had through Constitutional principals, means and governance. If present circumstances are the outgrowth of unconstitutional decisions, acts and legislation, then no rights may, can or should be given up. Rights are gained Constitutionally. Security must be gained Constitutionally (and what really is to prevent it from being so gained aside from original implementation of unconstitutionality?)

United States Constitution - Legislature


Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Should Americans give up some of their civil liberties for a chance of improved security?

None. It's a one word answer to a very complicated question, but in my opinion, the only word necessary.  Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying those "who could give us essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty or safety."  I believe that the submission of liberty is a slippery slope that has no definite ending. 

Acts of terror are horrible, and every force of the government should be used to stop them, but our liberties were gained by people brave enough to risk their lives to free themselves from tyranny.  To voluntarily give those blood-earned rights up out of fear not only dishonors the memory of our founding fathers, but speaks to Franklin's idea that we do not deserve liberty. 

I certainly hope that I am never the victim of a terrorist act, but I am not willing to give up my personal freedom to ensure it.  Additionally, I'm not ready to surrender my freedom from one terrorist to a government that could easily become corrupt when ruled by fear and cowardice.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

None. We have already sacrificed too many rights with the passage of The Patriot Act (incidentally this act had a different original name and did NOT pass before 9/11). Is it now enough that the FBI can merely suspect a person without documented evidence and, then, inspect a person's computer files, etc. It is doubtful that indefinite detentions and electronic evesdropping have accomplished anything.

Regarding terrorists, it seems paradoxical to consider that they have rights in the country which they attack.  For instance, those on one terrorist list are allowed to take flight lessons. And, Foreign terrorists are informed that they have the right to remain silent when they are in an American courtroom.


literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am not sure that we really have any rights. Essentially, the government controls all aspects of our lives (either directly or indirectly). I hate to sound cynical, but all it takes is a court order to bug my house.

Granted, there needs to be substantial evidence (problem--substantial is an objective word). I would like to think that given everything Americans have given up over the years to insure their protection and privacy, America is a generally safe place to live. That said, I cannot help but become upset hearing the news everyday.

In the end, am I willing to give up any more to be safer? No. My idea of safe and the government's idea of safe are far too different.


shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I can live with longer waits at airports and more invasive screening techniques. I can even live with the threat of electronic eavesdropping (wiretapping, etc.), as long as the information is only used in the context of an imment threat to someone's well being.


litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's a slippery slope.  People are always ready to give up rights for more security, but I don't think they realize you can usually never get those rights back.  It’s easy to use fear to get people to not think about what they are losing.