Security or civil liberties – what’ll it be?

boston policeIn an earlier post, I quoted (and agreed with) Ron Paul in his expression of concern about the militarized nature of the response to the Boston bombings. In the comments, I responded to a polite challenge from jamesb who put forward a common question: “If those two young men had walked into a house and held someone hostage with bombs…..”

I replied:

james, there will always be dilemmas confronting us when we try to balance state security with civil liberties. Which, as a society, do we decide is most in need of protection? Hostage crises, for instance, have happened throughout history, whereas the US Bill of Rights stood alone for centuries as an enormous step forward for mankind.

“Jonathan Turley, a Constitutional lawyer, says it best at his blog in a post titled “The Pavlovian Politics of Terror”:

“My greatest concern is that the Boston response will become the accepted or standard procedure . . .

. . . as a thousand papercuts from countless new laws and surveillance systems slowly kill our privacy, we might want to ask whether a fishbowl society will actually make us safer or just make us feel that way.”

Jim  Wheeler agreed:

Legislation enacted out of fear is fraught with peril, e.g., The Patriot Act.

Just wanted to put this out there.

9 responses to “Security or civil liberties – what’ll it be?

  1. Thanks Moe….

    I ‘m happy to see different views on the issue…..

    But I don’t think it’s gonna stop the cops if this happens again….


  2. And yes IT IS intimidating….

    I believe the Cop’s WANTit to be that way…..

    But Nobody got hurt after the bombing….



  3. As far as I’m concerned the Boston response was the right response. That being said, the concern that this sort of thing might become the normal response is not without merit.

    As for James’ hysteria about the cops wanting it to be that way – Of course they do! Any sane and responsible person tasked with keeping the peace and protecting the populace at at large wants to be actually be able to do so in the most effective way possible.


    • James hysterical??? Never, not his style!

      I should have perhaps been clearer that I don’t completely disagree iwth how Boston was handled. Cerrtain things are temporarily allowable in emergency situtations, and we need to allow them space for that.

      The increasing militarization of police though is very distrubing.


      • Why do you find the “increasing militarization of police” so disturbing. to you, Moe. Much like the irrational terror of “assault weapons,” this “militarization” is almost purely cosmetic.


        • You are right in that cosmetics is a big part of it jonolan . . . the helmets, the black uniforms, often the tactics. But cosmetics actually matter in terms of perceptions by the public. When they don’t look like policemen,, but look like soldiers and act like soldiers, that has an effect in terms of relations with the community.

          The majority of police operate as police for sure, but after 9/11, local police departments started demanding, and were given, many weapons of war.


        • jonolan, just came across this. Granted it’s Brazil, but . . .


  4. Any sane and responsible person tasked with keeping the peace and protecting the populace at at large wants to be actually be able to do so in the most effective way possible.”

    True. The trick is balancing the views of all kinds of one issue constituencies. Environmentalists see everything in terms of it being good for the non-human biosphere, environment more generally. They shouldn’t always be ignored or agreed with.


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