Liberty Versus Terror

Deborah Baxtrom March/April 2002 Voices cry out from newspaper editorials and TV and radio talk shows daily-demanding what most of us took for granted prior to September l1, 200l-the safety and security of ourselves and our families. This end must be achieved, the majority agrees, regardless of the Impact on civil liberties.

"I'm happy to give up some of my freedoms if it means I can fly safely with my 4-year-old daughter again;' states a Los Angeles man.

"What good are civil liberties if you're dead?" exclaims a woman on a radio talk show.

Such sentiments are understandable. After all, the world watched in horror as two hijacked passenger planes crashed into the World Trade Center and a third into the pentagon. We witnessed the deaths of thousands of innocent children, women, and men. The nation has rallied behind its flag and its leader in a display of patriotism unparalleled since World War II. But Americans are doing more than waving flag; we are demanding assurance that such a devastating tragedy will never happen again in this country.

President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress answered our call in the form of an antiterrorism bill that quickly made its way through the House and Senate and was signed into law on October 26, 2001. While the bill faced little opposition in Congress, its passage has not been completely without controversy. A minority of Americans have looked beyond their shock and grief and questioned our eagerness to scrap civil liberties that we've held inviolable since the inception of our nation; liberties that our forebears fought and died to secure for our collective benefit.


Many, however, readily agreed with a woman speaking on a CNN talk show who emphatically stated, "The people who oppose the antiterrorism bill make me sick. Ask any of those who lost loved ones on September 11 if they wouldn't willingly give up some of their civil liberties if it meant having those people back."

Of course they would, but the nation as a whole has a responsibility to act in a rational, nonreactionary manner for the benefit of all of its citizens. In the past when emotion or fear have prevailed in our country, the results haven't always been exemplary. In World War I America imprisoned anti-war protesters, most of whom were immigrants. During World War II thousands of patriotic Japanese Americans were interned in camps, not because they posed a realistic, threat to national security, but simply because of their ancestry

try. And in the I950s McCarthy's "Red Scare" ruined the careers, and often the lives, of many Americans who were accused, generally falsely, of having Communist leanings.

Could the antiterrorism bill potentially lead to similar injustices? At this writing it appears unlikely that America, will engage in seriously egregious acts based on the however, some of its dements remain controversial essence, the antiterrorism bill will:

Article Author: Deborah Baxtrom