United States and Civil LibertiesHow has the United States balance the need for national security with the protection of civil liberties from the post-WWI era to present day? Where do you think the...

United States and Civil Liberties

How has the United States balance the need for national security with the protection of civil liberties from the post-WWI era to present day? Where do you think the balance between civil liberties and national security should be?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Interestingly, Nazi Germany told the German people that it was taking away certain "liberties" from them in order to make them "safe."

A recent survey reported by NBC News disclosed that the majority of those surveyed are agreeable to racial profiling if deemed necessary for national security.  Of course, Americans had a number of their First Amendment freedoms signed away with the "Patriot Act" after September 11, 2001.  For instance, all public libraries can have their computers checked,etc.  The FBI no longer needs "probable cause" to investigate people.  Now, they can just suspect a person.  So, what if someone is just curious about a radical group, etc.? If the FBI suspects him/her and finds certain sites on his/her computer, what happens?  Can the person prove that he/she is not sympathetic to these radical groups, or will he/she become suspect and be investigated?

There is no question that America is in a quandary when it comes to national security.  What is very troublesome is the fact that there can be no definitive line drawn at which rights are to be preserved and which relinquished.  When Big Government becomes even bigger--or, worse, possibly transforms into another type of government, what will happen to citizens' personal freedoms?

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In times of crisis, the US has had a hard time honoring civil liberties during time of war or other crisis.  The two world wars and the Cold War all saw fairly serious infringements on civil liberties.

I think that we should be somewhat less worried about civil liberties today.  I think that there is really no problem with the government listening to phone calls between the US and people in other countries.  It would not really bother me to know that my call records were being given to the government.  I think we have to make some concessions so that we can have a better chance of remaining secure.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The government claims to only want to limit civil liberties in times of war or national emergency, but then if you look back in our history, we sure seem to have a lot of wars and emergencies.  I'd say our "balance" between national security and liberty has been tipped in favor of security (and a dubious one at that) more often than not.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
After 9/11, the United States cracked down on civil liberties with The Patriot Act. Its lovely euphemistic name belies its sinister nature. It allows the government to spy on its citizens in ways that were never acceptable before, including phone taps, secret searches without warrants, imprisonment in secret prisons, and torture.