Freedom vs. Security __ Where Do You Stand?

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we have witnessed a frightening trend in which we Americans have been willing to exchange our constitutionally protected freedoms for supposed improvements to our security. The Patriot Act and its ramifications, since enacted by President Bush, is a case in point.

For much of my nearly 19 years in Venezuela, my only source of news about the United States was the little bit of superficial coverage provided by CNN Español. I usually didn’t pay much attention to it. But after the attacks of September 11, 2011,  I was glued to CNN Español for weeks. I remember when Bush announced the Patriot Act saying we would have to give up some of our constitutional rights so that the government could do a better job of protecting America from any future terrorist attacks. I remember feeling sick to my stomach as I explained to my Venezuelan family that out of fear of terrorism Americans had given up some of their very important freedoms.

Under the Obama administration, we have seen further attacks on our freedoms, especially the right to free speech, in their attempts to put in place again the Fairness Doctrine and their efforts to control wide band access to the Internet  and  their Net Neutrality Law. This, my friends, is a very dangerous trend we are seeing. It is a very slippery slope for a freedom loving people to be standing on. Where will we draw the line? Have we already crossed that line?

I submit to you that something very serious happened recently in San Francisco that should put the fear of God in all freedom loving Americans. It seems that the transit police of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system had recently fatally shot a 45 year old man. Because they feared that there might be some violent demonstration against the shooting, BART officials decided to  cut off underground cellphone service for a few hours at several stations  Thursday to prevent potential demonstrators from using the Internet to organize any such demonstrations. Fox News has the story.

Now, you might say that the BART officials were only being prudent and were only interested in protecting all transit system users so what they did was okay. But friends, as I said, this is a very slippery slope. Here is what  Loyola Law School  professor had to say:

“We can arrest and prosecute people for the crimes they commit,” he said. “You  are not allowed to shut down people’s cellphones and prevent them from speaking  because you think they might commit a crime in the future.”

And the ACLU agreed:

Michael Risher, the American Civil Liberty Union’s Northern California staff  attorney, echoed the sentiment in a blog: “The government shouldn’t be in the  business of cutting off the free flow of information. Shutting down access to  mobile phones is the wrong response to political protests, whether it’s halfway  around the world or right here in San Francisco.”

Do you see that suspending our constitutional rights to prevent a perceived future crime is a very dangerous president? What if it were the Federal government that decided to something similar nation wide? You think that could never happen? Well take a look at this from the same Fox News article:

Similar questions of censorship have arisen in  recent days as Britain’s government put the idea of curbing social media  services on the table in response to several nights of widespread looting and  violence in London and other English cities. Police claim that young criminals  used Twitter and Blackberry instant messages to coordinate looting sprees in  riots.

Prime Minister David Cameron said that the  government, spy agencies and the communications industry are looking at whether  there should be limits on the use of social media sites like Twitter and  Facebook or services like BlackBerry Messenger to spread disorder. The  suggestions have met with outrage — with some critics comparing Cameron to the  despots ousted during the Arab Spring.

Many are predicting that the violent demonstrations that we have seen spread across Europe will soon come to our shores. Would the Obama administration consider the same drastic steps that Prime Minister David Cameron  is now considering under similar circumstances here in America?

Folks, I think it is time that issue of freedom vs. security raises to the forefront of public debate. To that end, I would very much like to hear your responses to the following questions:

  1. How do you feel about the Patriot Act? A month or two ago it was re-authorized for four more years with bipartisan support in Congress and very little debate. Do you think the Patriot Act should be the subject of public debate?
  2. Where do you draw the line on the issue of freedom vs. security? And, how do we measure any gains or improvements in our security or is it nothing more than perception?
  3. What do you think about the action taken by the authorities of BART ? Do you think this is an example of government over-reach?
  4. Like Prime Minister Cameron, do you think President Obama would use the spread of violent demonstrations in America as an excuse to shut down or otherwise take control of the Internet?

Well, that’s what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?

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44 thoughts on “Freedom vs. Security __ Where Do You Stand?

  1. The patriot act should be abolished. As for freedom vs. security We are now in a politically correct state of “constant warfare” with al qaeda.

    that’s what happens when you are afraid to use all you force ti defeat your enemy because someone might think you are racist.

    1. Bingo, Manhatta! You hit the nail on the head. Can you imagine the manager of a boxer telling his fighter “No, no. Don’t hit they guy on the nose. That’s not nice.” Israel learned a long time ago that when you are attack you respond ten fold.

  2. I also agree the Patriot Act should be repealed. If they want to have a FISA court and secretly issue search warrants, I have no problem with that as long as it is subject to open-ended oversight by congress and other cleared watchdog agencies.

    It’s all the other stuff in there that leaves the door open to government mischief.

      1. I guess because I’m a tea party libertarian and active politically, I am always looking for alliances. I don;t have the benefit of having a large block of people who agree with me on everything. I don’t care if you and I disagree on 99 percent of issues, if we agree on 1, let’s stand together and agree to politely disagree on the others.

      2. Uh…okay? But forgive me, CT, if I seem a bit confused. I find myself in agreement with you the vast majority of the time. I agree with Libertarians on many more things than those on which I disagree. So I am at a lost as to what precipitated this comment. I hope I have not inadvertently offended you in some way with some comment I have made in the past. At any rate, I am more than happy to agree that at times we can politely agree to disagree. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

      3. Oh no, Jim, I’m not offended at all! I was just responding to Bunkerville’s “strange bedfellow” comment regarding the ACLU. I’m just saying that I’m accustomed to forming alliances on a case-by-case basis. His comment hit home, and I was very glad to read it. If we stand with each other when we agree I think we can move forward. I think too many people are unwilling to set aside differences for even a moment. I think both your piece and Bunkerville’s comment are excellent. You don’t have to agree with the ACLU on average, but when you do, consider it a positive sign.

        Now if the ACLU starts defending Homeland Security, that ther would be a bigger problem!

  3. Reminds me of “The Minority Report”, the Tom Cruise film based on a Philip K. Dick story. From Wikipedia:

    It is set primarily in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia in the year 2054, where “PreCrime”, a specialized police department, apprehends criminals based on foreknowledge provided by three psychics called “precogs”.

    It would almost have to be set in D.C., wouldn’t it?

    1. Now that you mention it, yes, very similar to the primes of the movie.

      Strangely enough, I have mixed feelings on this issue. One of my differences with Libertarians is their stance regarding the use of military force that one should never be the first to use aggression. I believe our military should reserve the right to use preemptive strike to protect America. For example ,if our government had solid intelligence that Iran was about to launch a nuclear attack against the US, I would want our government to strike first. How do you define solid intelligence? I don’t know? BART’s action to shut down the Internet because they were worried someone might perpetrate a crime, I think is wrong. Do you see my conflict?

  4. I’ll have to read through the other comments, but I think it is a misunderstanding of the definition of security! I mean which offers greater security:
    1. Arrest the bad guys, or
    2. lock the people in their homes and thereby hope they will be safe?

    Both options address the issue of security, but only one gets to the root of the issue!

    In our fear of compromising political correctness, we permit the “bad guys” to roam free, while asking the rest of the law-abiding Americans to CHOOSE to lock themselves inside their homes … for their own safety, of course! Rather than requiring photo ID’s for school registration, car license application, business license, visa … etc, because that, of course, would be an “invasion of privacy,” we instead sign off on allowing Big Brother to monitor our internet use, our library use, yada, yada, yada … because this is less invasive???

    If we, as Americans, would simply get to know our neighbors, simple hospitality, it might be less likely unwelcome guests would remain unknown!

    1. How do you feel about the Patriot Act? A month or two ago it was re-authorized for four more years with bipartisan support in Congress and very little debate. Do you think the Patriot Act should be the subject of public debate? YES! PLEASE!

    2. Where do you draw the line on the issue of freedom vs. security? And, how do we measure any gains or improvements in our security or is it nothing more than perception?

    I have not flown since the TSA began their pat-downs, not will I (unless it’s an emergency.) When there is available technology to do background searches on patrons prior to the day of flight and the TSA/government chooses not to use it – for issues of political correctness – that is where I draw the line.!

    3. What do you think about the action taken by the authorities of BART ? Do you think this is an example of government over-reach?

    Taking the man in for questioning is fine – taking his life, not FINE! What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty???

    4. Like Prime Minister Cameron, do you think President Obama would use the spread of violent demonstrations in America as an excuse to shut down or otherwise take control of the Internet?

    Well, because we know how badly Obama WANTS to take control of the internet in some constricting way, I believe he will use anything … ANYTHING … to his advantage to cease control of our FREE use of the internet. His tactics are anything but subtle, at this point. He is certain he knows better than us average mere mortals, and he believes his intellectual superiority gives him the right to do just about whatever he wishes.

    1. Thanks for a great comment, Barb. You and I are on the same page. Question three, however, was meant to refer to BART’s shutting down of the Internet to prevent a future crime. I should have been more clear.

  5. I admit it: in the turmoil following 9/11, I was a believer in the Patriot Act. Call me stressed out (I live about 10 miles from the Pentagon) — and naive. Of course, in my wildest imagination I couldn’t imagine that someone like BHO would be President of the United States.

    The Patriot Act can be used as a tool of tyranny. I see that now.

  6. I am 100% opposed to the Patriot Act. (Funny, I just today sent an e-mail to Bachman’s campaign asking that she address why she voted to re-up it.).

    I bascially perscribe to the quote of Ben Franklin “Those who would give up freedom for a little security deserve neither.”

    Every President in my lifetime has gotten in wrong. The main job is NOT to “protect the American people”. The main job of government is to “Protect our Freedoms.” (Which of course entails keeping us from getting wiped out–but NOT at the expense of our freedoms).

    Great post–these discussions are perhaps the MOST important of all. Americans today are losing their self-reliance and personal responsiblity. It’s point the finger, blame, sue. Our founders are rolling in their graves and the mamby pamby society we’ve become.

  7. I am afraid that we are going to see more and more of this in the future; there is a work in progress to give Obama an internet “kill switch” to use when he decides there is an emergency and I am afraid that will result in San Fransisco on a national level. We are treading in dangerous waters here and it is about time for the American people to have a serious discussion on the Patriot Act.

    1. Bush, at least, acknowledged that what he was doing was taking away some of our rights. Obama tries to hide was he is doing. IMHO, we should be asking those who want to be our President what their position is on the Patriot Act.

  8. The Patriot Act was when I started to dislike Bush. Not because I was afraid of what he would do with such powers, but because I feared what evil men could do with these powers after he was gone.

    I think they are raising up a generation of young people who have been taught to be animals. And, now that they are acting like animals, they are using it to destroy everyone’s freedoms.

  9. Well, I have to say I was one who was not concerned when the Patriot Act was passed and signed into law. Looking back on it in hindsight, it was a mistake. Plain and simple, we were facing an unprecedented attack and we panicked. We should have kept our wits about us and reacted the way America has always reacted in the past. We would have been fine.

  10. Based on reading the comments here, I want to add a point the The Classic Liberal frequently discusses, namely, partisanship. It’s far too easy to get caught in the “D vs. R” wars to lose sight of the very things that we hold dear. The result is partisan aplogism – and I have been guilty of precisely that. These politicians are not heroes, they’re humans, and subject to very corrupting forces. “Trust but verify,” Reagan said, and it’s so true. If you can’t find at least one serious disagreement with a politician, that should raise an immediate red flag, in my opinon.

    I think the eager support for the Patriot Act was borne out of the proximity to the event, as well as insufficient skepticism by Republican rank and file. Count me as one of them.

  11. The Patriot Act should be seriously modified, along with he DHS. The problem the Bush Administration had to solve is the FBI and the CIA not communicating with each other in an effort to combat international terrorism. We ended up with a bulky bureaucracy that can’t effectively fight terrorism. There was no attempts to highjack planes after the shoebomber, and for a good reason. We need armed air marshals on at least some planes, and pilots and airlines should have the discretion to refuse service to anyone for any reason, but the airport safety theater has to go.
    My last job was in immigration where we dealt with people who were denied naturalization because they were held up in FBI security checks. Long story short, it was painfully obvious that they were not terrorist. A good number of them were seniors. At the time (I left in 07) the word was that Middle Easterners were not overrepresented in security checks. I’m sure it was another useless procedure.

    BART is a semi-private (meaning, the government doesn’t run it, but it’s funded through grants and taxes) company with its own police department… A poorly trained police department.

    1. An interesting point you bring up, Sandy, about the CIA and The FBI not cooperating and sharing information. In my years in the corporate world, I came up against that same problem a couple times. I correction the problem by firing one or both department heads and putting one person over both departments. I worked like a charm.
      It sounds San Francisco needs to review the charter they have with BART.

  12. Great post Jim. Once people trade liberty for security they never regain what they have given away. And the sad thing is that the only way we can lose our liberties is if we the people give them away. This has been the pattern for the last 60 years. First it was fighting to hold back communism, then the terrorism. Both noble causes, however both have cost Americans their liberties and losing liberties is simply to high of a price to pay for security.

    1. Thanks, John. You are right. Once we relinquish our freedoms it is very hard to get them back. Congress had a chance to debate the Patriot Act a couple of months ago. They didn’t. Instead, it was approved for another four years. I was dismayed at out quickly the Congress act in this case. IMO, every candidate contending for the Republican nomination should be questioned as to their position on the Patriot Act!

  13. At the time of the Patriot Act, I supported it although I knew we were on that slippery slope. I knew that whether or not we repealed it before Bush left office, or not, any other president can claim the precedent and use it in ways we might not agree with. Just think, we have Eric Holder directing how the Patriot Act is used. Scarrrrrrry if you’re White.

    In the heat of 9/11 I suspect it worked. So far, I know of nothing happening out of the Patriot Act that stepped on the toes of innocent Americans. Maybe there are examples – I just haven’t heard of them.

    The SF situation is terrible. This will be happening with the flash mobs in this country. That’s the starting place, and that’s why SF used them. It is a fearsome thing. Flashmobs can out number police by huge numbers. The lack of cell and internet may save the lives of our children, but it is an untenable invasion of our rights. I believe it should be illegal.

    I want the Patriot Act repealed. We will just have to take the medicine and hope whatever comes, we can handle it. There is no other constitutional way.

  14. A few random thoughts …

    I know the Iraq War is generally referred to as a preemptive war, especially by the government, but in reality, it was a preventative war. Big difference. A preemptive war implies a very serious and imminent threat – it’s defensive. A preventative war is a war based on the idea that the country attacked might someday become a genuine threat – it’s offensive. Personally, I don’t believe there is a single human, or group of humans, trustworthy enough to launch a preventative war on my behalf. It’s dangerous, revolutionary, and utopian.

    The PATRIOT Act was authored by Democrat Joe Biden and shoved through Congress by Republicans (there ain’t a dime’s worth of difference). It was unnecessary, unconstitutional, and we certainly weren’t attacked due to lack of government power.

    There is no need for the DHS, TSA, and all the other creepy police state institutions brought to us by GWB.

    We already lost the war. We lost it long ago. Winners continue to enjoy their traditions, way of life, and even enhance them. Losers are forced to change their traditions and way of life. Thanks to the “War on Terror,” the masters of government, “We the People,” have been turned into mundane subjects ruled by government.

    The Old Right declared “Our Enemy, the State.” Today’s right declares “Our Commander in Chief.” Think about that for awhile. It’s scary. The descendants of pioneers who waged war on their own government, now put government first.

    I beg of everyone, please read the following 2 books about fascism, both written long ago. Google them to find free pdf and ebook copies. If you can’t find them, email me and I’ll provide them for you.

    “Defying Hitler,” by Sebastian Haffner

    “As We Go Marching,” by John T. Flynn

    1. Hi, CL. I agree with your view that preventive war is offense and preemptive war is defense. I’d not heard it described quite like that before but it is accurate. Thanks for the link to the two books. I will definitely down load and read them.

  15. Excellent article! The Patriot Act allows agents to write their own warrants without having to go to a judge. It’s ridiculous and should be repealed.

    I love this topic as people always talk about what “could” happen if the TSA, for example, doesn’t do certain things. What I say is, anyone can have a bomb anywhere. What’s to stop someone from bringing a bomb into your apartment complex, or into the restaurant that you happen to be eating in? Does this mean we should think it’s a good idea for the TSA to be at all restaurants, to make sure something like this doesn’t happen? We cannot protect ourselves against everything, and when we try, we end up being worse off. We can take reasonable precautions, and allow private businesses to take care of their own security.

    1. Thanks. The DHS and TSA were not necessary. We always had the means to do what is being done without giving up any rights. When we give up our rights, the terrorist have win. The Patriot Act, in my opinion is a disaster and it needs to be repealed.

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