War on Terrorism and Civil Liberties Essay
War on Terrorism and Civil Liberties
The tragic incidents of September 11, 2001, radically manifested the ambit of action and effective backlash of terrorism. This scenario made national security and protection of citizens a major concern for the American government. American government took all substantial and accelerated measure to meet the requirements of this crucial period of history.
The establishment of the Department of Homeland Security was an apt and appropriate counter-measure by the U. S. to the terrorism defiance. But individuals’ rights of American people provided and guaranteed under fourth amendments of American constitution, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), limited powers of security and law enforcement agencies are some of the obstacles that impede the way of the law enforment agencies to disrupt terrorist plots and prevent attacks inside the United States.
But the other point of view is that these legal and constitutional provisions are not hindrance to security but are in accordance with cherished American ideals of personal freedom, right of privacy and the constitutional provision for no illegal and unjustified intrusion in the lives of American national. The National Strategy for Homeland Security depicts some of the broad features for national security. The Homeland Security Department has pointed out six major action areas and has agenda to consolidate its efforts in these spheres.
These include “intelligence and warning; border and transportation security; domestic counterterrorism; protecting critical infrastructures; defending against terrorism; and emergency preparedness and response”. (Yen, John. 2004) The first three areas are related to avoidance of attack in the American territory and its interest worldwide while latter activities include minimizing the defenselessness of America to terrorist attacks and reduction of harms and damages from these terrorist activities.
Another measure adopted by the American government is promulgation and enactment of Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, famously known as Patriot Act. This Act authorizes law enforcement agencies to take appropriate measure against any activity of terrorism. It further eases out some of the legal and constitutional impediments from the way of these law-enforcing institutes.
Charles Doyle, Senior Specialist, American Law Division discuses the objectives and effectiveness of this Patriot Act in The Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report for Congress report entitled “The USA PATRIOT Act: A Sketch,” The report describes the Patriot Act as an apt and appropriate measure to acts of terrorism, providing the authority to surveillance agencies and law enforcement officials “to track and intercept communication”.
It further authorizes Treasury Office to locate and embark upon the corrupt practices for foreign money laundering. It removes the unnecessary hurdles for officials and produced new efficient procedural measures and strict penalties for terrorists and criminals involved in terrorist activities. (ALCU) Some other scholars have described the Patriot an imperative measure to curb the terrorist activity through proper surveillance.
Its provisions further aid two vital objectives. Firstly they guarantee American citizens that U. S. government is taking adequate step to eradicate or counter terrorist activities and is a savior of their lives and thus is helpful in psychological war against terrorism. Secondly it assists the surveillance agencies to take all the immediate and effective measures to disrupt the criminal and/or terrorist activity.
Although Patriot act provides surveillance agencies with great powers to search and eavesdrop to intercept and counter any terrorist activity but critics of the Act has illustrated that Patriot Act forfeited legal and constitutional shields of liberty and privacy for American citizen. For example, Susan Herman who is Centennial Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School and General Counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union holds the views that Patriot Act is against the spirit of cherished American ideals of freedom and democracy.
She described that Patriot act lack a balance between rights of the American citizens and the President’s initiative to curb the terrorist activities. She says that Presidential powers in Patriot act are imperative for the protection of American citizen’s from future terrorists attacks but he is also responsible to “preserve, protect and defend the constitution” that safeguards the privacy and individuals rights of the people. (Herman, 2002)