Maintaining National Security Without Eroding Civil Liberties

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Political Science 100 - D4
Professor: Logan Masilamani
Teacher Assistant: Serdar Kaya
July 26, 2011

Maintaining National Security without Eroding Civil Liberties
Since 9/11, terrorism and the threat of terrorism have become a fact of life for all citizens of developed countries. No one is immune to terrorism; the word, alone, carries a negative connotation that can strike fear in the hearts and minds of the people subjected to its wrath. The concept of terrorizing individuals or groups of individuals by the use of force in order to achieve a political goal is nothing new and has been around since mankind has engaged in disputes and armed conflicts. According to Professor Gerard Chaliand and Arnaud Blin (2007, p. 3), experts in asymmetric conflicts, terrorism existed as early as 70 C.E when a Jewish zealots sect called Sicarii used terrorism "to cite an uprising against the Roman occupation." Very little has changed since then; terrorism is alive and well. In fact, Britain "have waged a prolonged, low-key, yet deadly struggle against both international and domestic terrorism for 30 years" (Cuthbertson, 2002, p. 27). As a result of the imminent threat of terrorism, in 1974, the British parliament introduced its first anti-terrorism legislation, Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA); PTA "permitted police to arrest, detain, and conduct search-and-seizure raids against suspected terrorists without a warrant" (Cuthbertson, 2002, p. 27). In essence, the British government passed a legislation that undermined the fundamental ideals which democratic societies like itself were built upon. Following the aftermath of 9/11, in order to prevent and deter further terrorists attacks, America passed its own anti-terrorism act called the "USA Patriot Act." The power that the PTA provided to British law enforcement agency is pale in comparison to the USA Patriot Act. Thus this essay will focus on the questions of whether or not the United States government should restrict civil liberties in order to fight terrorism and to what extend in term of restriction should they take. As the threat of terrorism escalate, democratic countries such as America, Britain and Canada will be more willing to sacrifice civil liberties in exchange for security. This willingness to sacrifice civil liberties in the name of for security illustrates that an individual's rights and liberties, even in a democratic society, are not absolute. However, the implementation of anti-terrorism legislations that grossly infringe on individuals' rights will not be sufficient in and of itself to eliminate terrorism, but it may push a democratic society towards authoritarian rule.

Currently there is no universally accepted definition of terrorism. The term itself is ambiguous in nature: "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" (Ganor, 2002, p. 4). Nevertheless, one must have clearly defined definition of terrorism in order to separate terrorist activities from other form of political violence such as political assassination, civil wars, rebellions, coup d'états, revolutions, and so forth. In 2004, the UN Security Council adopted a working definition for terrorism:

criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to
cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose
to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or
particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an
international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, which
constitute offences within the scope of and as defined in the international
conventions and protocols relating to terrorism (Saul, 2005, p. 164) Therefore, an attack on civilian targets that were selected indiscriminately among a targeted population in order to intimidate or force a government body to alter its current political agenda would...
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