WASHINGTON, September 30, 2014 — President Obama’s “war on terrorism,” spurred by the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), poses a potential threat to American civil liberties. Under mounting pressure to eliminate an increasing number of security threats, national security professionals may be tempted to overlook boundaries in the name of national security.
While national security officials are supposed to balance the need for national security with the need to respect civil liberties, the reality often involves trampled civil liberties. The apparent lack of respect for Congressional oversight on behalf of top CIA officials, since it was discovered that the CIA likely hacked Congressional computer networks, demonstrates the very mentality that can lead to a disregard for civil liberties and other legal boundaries.
Looking back at the treatment of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the DOJ did not want to read Mr. Tsarnaev his Miranda Rights, because doing so meant the Executive Branch would be forced to afford him the same legal rights given to all US citizen facing criminal charges. n essence, the government was trying to engineer a legal rationale for circumventing the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in order to interrogate terrorist suspects.
The bold example of the CIA’s torture program, which appears to have violated several legal and moral limits, should raise concerns for American civil liberties as well. CIA officers involved in the program have justified the torture of suspected terrorists as a means of preventing terrorist attacks while reasoning they are not bound to Eight Amendment protection when interrogating foreign terrorist suspects outside of the US.
With the US Patriot Act and the FISA Amendment Act serving as a legal basis for circumventing the rights of most American suspected of being involved in terrorist activities, it is clear national security officials are minimizing protections against the abuse of police power. As such, the threat to civil liberties goes beyond a few isolated incidences.
In fact, the Edward Snowden revelations demonstrate the 9/11 terrorist attacks gave America’s national security apparatus the rationale needed to ignore civil liberties in order to engage in unfettered intelligence gathering operations. From illegal wire taps to mass collections of so-called meta data, which enables analysts to understand intimate details of individuals’ lives, NSA programs, such as PRISM, exemplify a total disregard for a reasonable right to privacy as afforded under the Fourth Amendment.
Considering this recent history of civil liberties abuses in the name of national security, the secretive nature of the national security agencies, and the mentality that lead to these abuses, people need to be just as concerned with civil liberties abuses as terrorism. As the world is once again heavily focused on the threat of globalized terrorist, there also needs to be increased vigilance to protect civil liberties. Moreover, the latest emphasis on counter-terrorism again raises the specter of compromising liberty in the name of security.