National Security vs. Civil Liberties

by Sal on March 22, 2006

in Politics

Much has been made on the NSA wiretapping story regarding the need for National Security vs. the need to protect Civil Liberties and the Constitution. Readers of the Axis of Right know that I am in favor of the NSA Wiretapping of terrorists without a warrant for the purpose of stopping a terror attack, as I believe the authority to do so is part of the President’s Article II powers as Commander-in-chief during a time of war. I also think the story has been horribly mishandled and much misinformation regarding the program is circulating the media.

An issue I am less sure about, however, is a recent NYPD initiative to place over 505 surveillance cameras throughout the city, both to capture criminals and monitor for possible terrorist activity. Part of me feels that this may go too far down the slippery slope, giving the Government too much intrusion into the personal lives of its citizens. The other side of me would rather have my life intruded upon if it means not being blown up by a bomb.

I ask all readers to comment and give your take. I’m on the fence, and could go either way. Convince me.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike March 22, 2006 at 12:59 pm

There is something creepy about being watched even no individual is necessarily the focus. Safety is a concern, especially with regard to terrorism, but rest assured that the purpose of these cameras will not be to deter terrorists. They will be there for regular law enforcement and traffic violations.

I don’t think this the beginning of a slippery slope. If government can watch most moves you make, then we’re at the bottom of that slope.

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The Iconoclast March 22, 2006 at 3:20 pm

My big concern with anything like this and wiretaps is what I call “government creep.”

If you look at any these issues, thay are rife with “yeah, but’s…” For example, take the cell phones and driving debate. Non-hands free cell phones can’t be used while driving, but it’s not a primary offense. There will be a vocal debate about cell phones and driving and the proponents of that law will argue that it’s not a primary offense. The law gets passed and, without a single bit of fanfare, six months later it becomes a primary offense.

I’m always worried about that creep. Once a toll booth is up or the cameras installed, it becomes a lot easier for those in power to raise the tolls or expand the net of what’s being looked for. That’s why putting in those cameras is a very bad idea.

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Matt March 23, 2006 at 8:24 am

I don’t really see this as being such a major invasion of privacy. Any store that you walk into, from Wal-Mart to the corner convenience store, has cameras taping your every move. There are cameras inside many public buildings, and I’m sure, cameras monitoring the perimeter of high profile public buildings. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to start monitoring high-crime areas. As long as the cameras are on public property, monitoring public areas, I think the government has the right to place them.

Of course, the technology could be abused, but what law enforcement tool is immune from potential abuse? Should police not carry guns because one of them might flip out and go on a shooting rampage? Should the government not track fingerprints of criminals because someone with access to the database could use the information to frame someone for a crime? Should the terrorist surveillance program be disbanded because a rogue agent could listen in on his girlfriend’s phone calls? Most people believe these are risks we must take to ensure our safety and freedom. I don’t see how this is any different.

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Sal March 24, 2006 at 10:37 am

Interesting debate. My only caution, Matt, is that power corrupts. Your analogy of doing away with police carrying guns because one might go on a shooting rampage, or tracking fingerprints because it may be used for personal non law-enforcement reasons does not necessarily hold because safeguards are put in place to limit a Police Officer’s use of guns (intense investagatory procedures every time a gun is fired) and limits on the use of fingerprints. The issue I think I may have with the cameras is that there are no safeguards in place. The Wal-mart difference has to do with the fact that a Private Property owner (e.g. Wal-Mart) can basically do whatever he/she wants on private property as long as it doesn’t violate the law, while the public areas are for public use.

Again, not completely sure on where I stand, but the idea of the government watching me without cause certainly creeps me out. In the NSA situation, the monitoring is targeted. In the public usage, it is not. I think that having the cameras without any kind of safeguards is dangerous.

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