Are security measures justified to the extent that civil liberties can be sacrificed?
The events of September 11th 2001 forced governments all over the world to take extraordinary measures to enhance the security of their citizens. Heightened security measures, such as those in the US, include unparalleled airport checkpoint procedures, face recognition devices in public places, tracking, monitoring and identification through thumb printing of certain categories of visitors, random searches of Internet content by intelligence officers, the ability to demand records on somebody from any business or organisation, the use of wiretaps and the ability to intercept and read email, and eavesdropping on conversations between a lawyer and their client. The possible use of racial profiling to target “suspicious individuals” for more thorough searches and questioning is also being seriously discussed, although apparently not in operation. Most of these measures are associated with loss of privacy; liberty has also directly been infringed through the detention without charge or trial of non-citizens, on the grounds they do not enjoy the same rights as citizens, the designation of US citizens as enemy combatants and their indefinite detention, and by trying suspects through military tribunals rather than in a normal court with judge and jury.On the one hand, extraordinary security measures are required to counteract the imminent threats of terrorism that has become much more cunning and resourceful over the last decade. On the other hand, the introduction of these measures comes at the expense of sacrificing some of our most cherished civil liberties and rights as citizens. No doubt, there is a trade-off between security and liberty, but what is the ideal balance between them?
To be honest, I'm with old Ben Franklin on this one. "Anyone who would give up a little liberty in order to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."