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GOVT 480
Chapter 15 Outline (Homeland Security and Constitutional Issues)
The debate concerning Homeland Securitys role in the war on terrorism is not just an
idle passing of time in the coffee shop, it raises serious Constitutional concerns. We have
successfully avoided establishing any sort of Gestapo-like organization in this country, or
anything like the UKs MI5/MI6. Benjamin Franklin once said: He who would trade
liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security.”
In answering the general hysteria after 9/11, did Congress push through legislation to
protect the homeland” that in reality undermined Americas civil liberties? The short
answer is, yes,” but they first did so many years before when they authorized the
president to be able to declare when a state of emergency exists, which in turn allows
superseding the Constitution until the emergency has expired. Legislation following 9/11
simply adds to the magnitude of the problem. As discussed earlier, all terrorism is
criminal in fact and in natureit is terrorism only in that it is political in nature and the
terrorism label is applied by a government authority.
Americans have to decide on how much freedom and liberty, if any, they want to
surrender for security.” Such decisions generally are not left up to the people, however,
and the key to our freedoms lies in the character of those we place in authority at all
There are always trade-offs when considering security. The question of the suspension of
liberty lies at the root of arguments concerning homeland security. Proponents at one end
of the spectrum argue that we should give up some civil liberties in order to gain security.
On the other side of the spectrum, people argue that limiting civil liberties is far more
dangerous than the more limited threats posed by terrorism. Decreasing civil liberties
limits individual freedom and increases government power. It may increase protection
from terrorism, but this will also increase citizen vulnerability to the abuse of government
The most controversial aspects of counterterrorism are symbolized by the USA Patriot
Act. The most sensitive aspect of the law deals with intelligence gathering and sharing.
The USA Patriot Act is actually an acronym; take some time to look up the full name.
Passed in October 2001, it expands law enforcements power to investigate and deter
terrorism. Opponents claim that it adversely aects civil liberties. By giving the executive
more power, the Constitution is threatened, and increased executive powers will be used
to mask an attack on civil liberties. Unfortunately, Congress has relinquished its power to
the president, and failed to provide sufficient room for judicial review. Proponents claim
that it introduces reasonable measures to protect the country against terrorists. The act
was amended and renewed in 2006, and the ability to collect and analyze domestic
intelligence remained part of the law. Provisions for allowing roving wiretaps, the
increased power to seize evidence, and increasing wiretaps were approved in 2011. The
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