National Security vs. Citizens' Rights: Striking a Balance to Keep Americans Safe

george bushOsama bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi may be dead, but there are still bad guys out there that want to hurt Americans, because we’re too rich, too Christian, or just because they don’t like us. The point is that we need to be mindful of national security issues and understand that the government’s job is to keep us safe.

Back in the day, Benjamin Franklin said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” 

In 2001, President George Bush signed the USA PATRIOT Act into law, which greatly expanded the ability of law enforcement agencies to search private records in hopes of gathering intelligence to prevent future terrorist acts.

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For the last ten years, Americans on both sides of the aisle have been involved in a contentious debate over whether or not the act violates our freedom. So of course the topic came up in last week’s GOP presidential candidate debate on foreign policy and national security.

Ron Paul, who is well known for his libertarian leanings, declared the PATRIOT Act ‘unpatriotic’ because ‘undermines our liberty.’ He supported his case by pointing out that terrorism is still a crime on both the national and international levels. He cited the arrest of Timothy McVeigh as proof that the system worked.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich responded in disagreement:

Timothy McVeigh succeeded. That’s the whole point. Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of Americans. I don’t want a law that says, ‘After we lose a major American city, we’re sure going to come and find you.’ I want a law that says, ‘You try to take out an American city, we’re going to stop you.’

I’m not sure where exactly I stand on the issue. I like the idea of keeping Americans safe from attacks. I sleep better at night knowing that there are people out there tracking down terrorists, and as a mom, I’m grateful to live in a nation where I don’t have to question daily whether or not I’ll be able to tuck my kids into bed that night.

On the other hand, giving police too much power can be as scary a thought as any other security issue. I like my privacy, thank you very much, and don’t relish the idea of someone being able to read my emails or see what library books I’ve checked out (without a warrant) because someone told them I was involved it terrorist activities.

 

How far should the government be allowed to go in order to protect us? How far is too far?

 

Image via smiteme/Flickr

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