Opinion: Civil Liberties Should Not Be Compromised For the Sake of National Security

Jesse Zhou '16, Opinions Section Editor

Following any act of terrorism, whether it be in this nation or abroad, people are quick to say certain things regarding security. “No more refugees!” they exclaim, a nervous paranoia on their faces. “Monitor their calls!” screaming about how other things that completely violate basic civil liberties and the Bill of Rights. This is the biggest issue; that individuals, including those who hold positions in lawmaking bodies of this nation, would be willing to sacrifice privacy for security.

This type of legislation has been seen in this nation before, in the form of the Patriot Act, passed in the wake of the events of 9/11 under the guise that somehow, by giving up the right to privacy, the government would somehow make the nation safer. This law was renewed in June of 2015, and set to expire in 2019. If one must sacrifice their basic rights in order to feel safe, then, in effect, the individuals who wish to harm others have already won the battle. They have struck fear into the hearts of the victims, to the point where they are willing to no longer have privacy in their lives. This is how the terrorists win.

And looking at this shift in governance in the wake of more recent attacks, such as the ones in Paris, shows exactly how harmful these changes can be. The French government has put even tighter limitations on civil liberties than the US did following 9/11, and French citizens have welcomed these changes. While the French do have a radically different political history and system in place, it is strange to see exactly what fear will drive people to do. In the end, when one gives up their rights and freedoms in the name of so-called security, the attackers have one the first battle; altering the way people live and making them live in constant fear. This is not the way to approach matters of national security, and only makes the nation that implements such policies weaker.