Inthe Declaration of Independence, when the United States was born, thenatural rights of individuals and liberty were established. For manyyears, the United States has been the reference point for humanrights and liberty in the world. The United States is considered tobe the freest nation in the world. Over the years, the United Stateshas been able to avoid trading human rights and liberties withsecurity, like many nations in the world have done. However, in thewake of increased threat of international terrorism, questions havebeen raised on the ability of the United States to remain committedto protecting human rights and liberties, while ensuring thatAmericans are safe. The September 11 attack was a turning point onhow Americans and the United States government debate about securityissues. For example, the federal government under the leadership ofPresident Bush decided that in an attempt to protect individual’srights and liberties, there were too many restrictions on the lawenforcement agencies. This made it difficult for them to effectivelyconduct security surveillance, especially domestic spying and thusunable to protect the American citizens from emerging threat ofinternational terrorism. The attack was a proof that the UnitedStates was not prepared for terrorism threats in the modern society.This led to the enacted of the USA Patriot Act of 2001 (Herman,2012). There are numerous controversies and debates that have emergedon how the federal government in modern times relates with residentsand citizens of the United States.
Opponentsof the act and other federal government initiatives in the waragainst terrorism have raised questions on the rolling back of lawenforcement agencies and government restrictions and how it impactson civil liberties. For example, the executive order by PresidentBush authorizing the wiretapping of phone calls by law enforcementagencies resulted into concerns about the new trend of the governmentinfringing on basic human rights in the fight against terrorism.Although these changes have been attributed to the fight againstterrorism, it has been argued that these are some of the evidences ofhow the act has eroded civil rights and liberties protected by theUnited States constitution (Kashan, 2009). Over a decade since theenactment of the Patriot Act, the big question is whether the law wasnecessary and how it has impacted on the security and civilliberties.
Thereis no doubt that there is a tradeoff between security and security inthe federal government approach to international terrorism.Additionally, there is no doubt that the world is significantlydifferent when today is compared to over two centuries ago when thedeclaration of independence was drafted. As the world has become moreintegrated, an increased number of people are dissatisfied withpolicies and initiatives by the United States government. As aresult, Americans are faced with an increased risk of suicide attackfrom terrorists. Terrorism has transformed from the old-fashion whichwas easy to detect and deter into hard to track intelligent basedterrorism. Curbing this threat is not possible without trading someof the individual liberties. It is also clear that although the lawsas well as security actions by the government have an impact on civilliberties they enjoy popular support. Additionally, the law has notsignificantly impact on the civil liberties in the United States,almost one and half decades after it was enacted. The United Statesremains a model nation in the protection of human rights and civilliberties (Herman, 2012).
However,throughout history, the heinous crimes against humanity andinfringement of natural rights and liberties start with goodintentions. The changed in law that reduce legal restriction on lawenforcement agencies may have good intentions but if misused in thefuture, it is likely have detrimental effects. Tolerating even someof the slightest infringement of civil rights for security reasonswill in the long run evolve into widespread cases of civil libertiesinfringement. Some of the impacts of the law include increasedvictimization of Muslims and Arab Americans (Wralstad & Lutz,2014). For example, the Weimar Republic in Germany was one of themost democratic nations after the First World War. Even Adolf Hitlerwas elected into office democratically. However, within five years,he converted the democracy into an authoritarian regime which did notrespect human rights and liberty, with the consent of the public.
Inconclusion, the United States is faced with an eminent threat ofterrorist attack. This has resulted into desperate attempts by thefederal government to deter global terrorism. The Patriot Act of 2001was aimed at increasing the ability of the federal government to dealwith this threat. However, concerned have been raised about thetrading of civil liberty with security. President Benjamin Franklinwarned against any attempt to trade civil liberties with security.The big question remains whether the United States is losing itsheritage of liberty in the war against terrorism. Although times havechanges, and the security threats are becoming complex, infringementon natural rights and liberties is unwarranted.
Herman,S. (2012). Taking liberties: the war on terror and the erosion ofAmerican democracy. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press.
Kashan,S. (2009) The USA Patriot Act: Impact on Freedoms and CivilLiberties,ESSAI: Vol. 7, Article 28.
WralstadG. & Lutz, J. M. 2014. USA Patriot Act. The Encyclopedia ofCriminology and Criminal Justice. 1–5. DOI:10.1002/9781118517383.wbeccj260