P1 mailbag: Sacrificing Constitutional protection for national protection: Is it necessary & acceptable?
Has the U.S. reached the point of needing to sacrifice Fourth Amendment protections in order to root out terrorists and prevent attacks? That's the question raised in the article, "Trading freedoms for national security...do you have a choice?" by trainer Ralph Mroz.
We asked PoliceOne members for their feedback and, as predicted, responses varied from agreement that this may be necessary to a staunch defense of Constitutional protections, regardless of terrorist threats and the increasing challenge of national security.
Here we share some of the responses. If you would like to add yours, please post your comments on PoliceOne's Freedoms for National Security Forum.
Latent Fingerprint Examiner Daniel Recker with the Indianapolis (IN) PD:
I find that his conclusions are only valid if you accept his overall supposition that the purpose of government is to protect the physical safety of it's citizens, I find this a rather Orwellian view. I would submit instead that the purpose of government is to serve the will of it's citizens, and doing so within the framework of a Constitutional Republic that sacred document must be, quite literally, the last word on any measure put forth for consideration. The measure of any legislation that seeks to expand the intrusive power of government must not be how it might be used in some idealized fantasy world for the purpose of good.
Constable Leon Richard with the Farmington (MN) PD:
(About intelligence gathering): The problem with the program is a lack of oversight and control, nobody is watching the watchers. There is a relative lack of checks and balances that makes any American concerned about liberty and freedom nervous by definition. The only way we can view new programs and laws is not by the good they could do if done the way they were intended, but by the harm they could cause if they were abused by individuals involved as they certainly will be at some point. If there are no built in controls, then there will be no control.
Asst. Chief Ernest Yokley with the Winston-Salem (NC) PD:
We are at war....just as surely as in other world-wide conflicts. Freedoms have been put on hold by Lincoln, Roosevelt(2) and others to protect this land. So as far as the tradeoff - at least you're still alive to see it.
Officer Steven Baum with the Niagara Falls (NY) PD:
I fear giving up any of my rights, and also fear a government that asks me to do so [for reasons you mentioned]. Where do we draw the line between safety and freedom? Aye there's the rub. It's a slippery path from "safety" to lost freedoms and then totalitarianism. I am glad it is not up to me to play Solomon, but I will have to live with the results. As will we all.
Officer Terry Nixon with the Davenport (IA) PD:
I feel that The Patriot Act has resulted in the suspension of many individual freedoms. This was all done in the interest of "The War Against Terror," the "Spin" the media has been ordered to use to describe our present military operations. Talk about war propaganda.
If tomorrow, a mysterious act totally eliminated all the concerns of terrorism, do you think our government would restore those individual rights and freedoms?
Do you feel any safer because of the Patriot Act? I sure don't.
Deputy Terry Nunnally with the Clatsop County (OR) SO:
The government must have the tools, and the authority to use those tools, when the threat dictates the use of them. Without them, we are all just sitting ducks. As the author indicates in his conclusion, probable cause has already been established by the enemies of our free society. Intent and means have been clearly illustrated by those who mean to do us harm. Our only chance of survival is to eliminate the opportunity our enemies have
Officer Charles Ray with the Jacksonville (FL) SO:
I am concerned about any loss of our liberty, on any scale. I am not willing to trade safety for the Bill of Rights either. We should be able to rely on our elected officials to rid the world of anyone that would attack the United States of America. I believe that was the problem prior to President Bush. Too many people look at terrorist attacks as a criminal act. It is NOT! It is an act of war and wars should be fought with all our combined military might. Those that attack us with weapons of mass destruction, and their supporters, should pay a severe price. As for me, I'll keep my liberty and deal with everything else when it comes.
If you would like to add yours, please post your comments on PoliceOne's Freedoms for National Security Forum.