Politics & Media
Jun 30, 2008, 07:59AM

The Freedom-Security Trade-Off

The government's new wiretapping bill has received flak from individual rights groups and the media since its origins. As the smoke of terrorism paranoia is clearing away, many people are asking whether national security is paramount to individual rights.

If it's true that those who give up liberty for security deserve neither, then a great deal of Congress is operating on borrowed freedom. It was they who, last week, overwhelmingly approved vast changes to the government's wiretapping protocol, expanding their ability to spy both domestically and internationally. Perhaps the piece de resistance is a provision that allows the government to conduct a weeklong wiretap without obtaining a warrant if it is deemed "that important national security information would otherwise be lost." Also in the bill is a provision to grant immunity to some phone companies, now facing roughly 40 lawsuits, provided that the request to surrender information from their clients was legitimate. Most people agree that both the White House and the phone companies are getting a good deal. Those in favor of the bill have commented that it will better enable us to combat threats against terrorists.

But lawmakers seem to assume that the trade-off between safety and liberty is a new concept, one that our country's founders were unaware of. Apparently, once the president determined that the Fourth Amendment could at times be inconvenient to his purposes, he chose to ignore it. As a result, all that we've won in this war is a gradual incision into our rights that continues to be cut further.

The war against terror will never be over. And whereas previous threats against our nation were given expiration dates and thus a period when we could look with hindsight on our rush to abandon our liberties for safety, the Global War on Terror will not provide us that advantage.



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