Security VS Liberty Free Writing Sample

There is an ever going debate over whether or not the need for security trumps the right to certain civil liberties. Since the beginning of the United States, civil liberties have been infringed upon to allow for a more secure nation. “When the French threatened American sovereignty on the high seas in 1798, John Adams supported the Alien and Sedition Acts, blatantly punishing free speech as traitorous. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus (the rule giving citizens a right to take their grievances to court).” ( Thomas, Klaidman, Hosenball, Isikoff, and Wolffe.) The list goes on.

Today, the National Security Agency (NSA) is performing data collection on millions of Americans and foreign citizens. These actions are not monitored by a form of checks and balances, they do not require warrant, and they are done in secrecy. Recently, Edward Snowden, a private contractor for the NSA leaked multiple documents showing the extent of these data collection programs. The documents exposed many lies told by officials, and revealed how much power the NSA had. It is the obvious conclusion after reviewing data on the matter, that the civil liberties and democratic ideals that are the very basis of American citizenship and society, are too often are manipulated or infringed upon in the name of “security”. The programs of surveillance like that of the NSA violate the civil liberties and the democratic process in which this nation was founded upon.

The very basis of democracy, something the US claims to have waged war over, is the idea that citizens of a nation should be allowed and able to make decisions for themselves through the process of voting. However, recently, we have seen the complete bypass of the democratic process as public views are disregarded. The NSA and other government organizations have been operating in secrecy to spy on Americans and foreign citizens. They are doing so without warrant, which clearly violates 4th amendment. The government claims that these new programs are intended to protect the American people, but they did not give the American people the chance to decide that. The truth is that “in a July poll by Quinnipiac University, 45 to 40 per cent of U.S. voters said the government’s anti-terrorism efforts go too far in restricting civil liberties — a dramatic reversal from a poll in January 2010 that showed 63 per cent believed the government’s efforts didn’t go far enough.”(Luiza Savage). The sudden reversal was due to new documents leaked by Edward Snowden. The documents revealed classified information about the NSA’s surveillance programs. In essence, it revealed what the NSA was actually doing in their efforts to spy on Americans and foreign nations. Many Americans were outraged by what Snowden considered an “excessive intrusion on the privacy of Americans.” Others were equally outraged by the fact that this information was kept secret. Especially due to remarks made by public officials. For example, the president had this to say, “It’s not enough for me, as president, to have confidence in these programs.

The American people need to have confidence in them as well…” Had president Obama truly believed that, he would have presented the American people with the actual facts of the situation. Along with the president, the Director of National Intelligence “was forced to admit publicly that his previous assurance in Senate testimony that the N.S.A. was not collecting data on millions of Americans was false.”(Debate in Government Spying Programs). These government installations are continuously lying, not only to the American people but also to the people who are supposed to actually run the government. Since 9/11 we have seen increases in government spying and “sketchy” surveillance programs. Senator Ron Wyden said that “The combination of increasingly advanced technology with a breakdown in the checks and balances that limit government action could lead us to a surveillance state that cannot be reversed.”(Luiza Savage). This is touching on the fact that there isn’t a program or group to ensure that the NSA and organizations like it are not abusing their powers. The US government is built on a system of checks and balances where different groups monitor each other. This system isn’t present in accordance to the NSA. Some feel that unchecked power like this can lead to abuse or manipulation by certain influential groups. Some have even begun to suggest a similarity in the actions of the NSA and the Nazi government in Germany leading up to World War II. “America and Germany may be democracies, but states can change. The intelligence agencies might one day use their knowledge to identify and intimidate citizens. We remember the Gestapo. We remember the Stasi.” (Jochen Bittner) We have seen in history what intelligence gathering programs can become. The US cannot become like that or even close to it, but they are currently heading in that direction.

This blatant disregard for the democratic process over such a controversial issue is implorable for the supposed “free world.” Foreigners are watching the US repeat history’s mistakes and give in to fear as it discards its principles in the name of security. It is human nature to protect oneself against all threats. “In moments of crisis, presidents, if they believe in executive power (and most inevitably do), will do almost anything to protect the country.”(Thomas, Klaidman, Hosenball, Isikoff, and Wolffe). Throughout history, we have seen horrible things done in order to “protect one’s country.” Hitler believed he was doing the right thing for his country, to protect them. The Romans slaughtered people by the hundreds of thousands to set examples to those threatening the country. J Edgar Hoover thought he was protecting the country when he framed and blackmailed Martin Luther King jr.

All these people used public fear and hatred to fuel and justify their actions. Today, people all over the country are terrified of terrorists. Many have put blind faith in the government and allow them to do as they please. After something as traumatic as 9/11 took place, it is hard to imagine Americans being unbiased. It is important to take into account what the outside world thinks of the recent events unfolding in the US. Some are less concerned about violations of privacy, and more concerned about possible security risks. They feel that all that information and power in the hand of the wrong person can be a terrible thing. “Imagine the next Edward J. Snowden strives not for a global debate on privacy, but simply for money. How many Rubles, how many Renminbis would certain governments or companies pay for just a snapshot of the N.S.A.’s hard drives? And if data can be stored, it can also be altered.

Imagine someone taps the N.S.A. computers, alters certain information and diverts it back into the data stream. What would be the impact of such a breach on, say, high-frequency trading?” (Jochen Bittner). This raises the idea that information gathered by an insider can be sold to the highest bidder. This would most likely be a country like China, Iran, North Korea. Keep in mind, the information the NSA gathers is not only from Americans. It gathers information on all countries of importance. Branching off the idea of corruption, what if someone like J Edgar Hoover were to be given a high position in the NSA. They could alter the files on certain people, resend it into the data stream, and then the government could mark them as a terrorist. This is more plausible than one might think. As stated earlier, the system of checks and balances is not in play in this situation. That means that nobody is there to make sure this abuse doesn’t happen. Germans have also suggested that a path like this could lead to what Germay experienced under Hitler. Alexis de Tocqueville believed there was a process that could lead to something like that. “A democratic government increases its power simply by the fact of its permanence. Time is on its side, every incident befriends it, the passions of individuals unconsciously promote it; and it may be asserted that the older a democratic community is, the more centralized will its government become.” (Tocqueville). By this he means that incidents like 9/11 create more fear.

That fear makes people feel insecure or unsafe in their current state. They turn to the government to protect them, granting them more power to do so. In Todays world, this seems like it will go on forever. Obama has said it himself, “terrorism will never stop.” There will continue to be more and more programs that violate civil liberties unless people take the chance to reform privacy laws and surveillance to prevent this from continuing. People with another perspective concur that security from terrorism is worth sacrificing a few civil liberties. This paper is not intended to deny the existence of a threat worthy of precautions. It is understandable that those who were terrified by the events of 9/11 and the portrayal of terrorism in the media would react in such a way. Even though gang violence and street crime is a much more relevant threat to Americans than terrorism, the media portrays terrorism as a constant threat from which no American is exempt . The natural response to such a fear is retaliation or blind devotion to whoever offers a solution. People who share this viewpoint feel that the liberties with which the US justifies its actions and built itself upon are worth sacrificing to defend itself from terrorism. They feel that these new programs and laws are necessary to fix the intelligence failures that missed large elements of 9/11, and to defend against further attempts to inflict terror in Americans. People often say “What if the intelligence agencies fail again in connecting the dots? Remember 9/11?”(Jochen Bittner).

They say “What’s the point in having civil liberties if the country that allows them is destroyed by enemy combatants?” It is this misconception, that terrorist forces have the capability to destroy the very fabric of the United States that has allowed these programs to continue. The reality is that we are yet to see real results from these programs. And in the years since 9/11 there have been so few terrorist attacks, and the few that there were left very few dead. The attacks that were stopped were stopped due to a malfunction or an ordinary person noticing it. The majority of terrorist attacks that occur are not committed domestically. The threat in the US is not great enough to justify these means of “protection.” Every day, dozens of people die by guns in the United States. They are not killed by terrorists and neither the guns, the people who sold them, or the people who used them are being watched by the NSA. It is with this information that people wonder whether these programs are truly intended to protect Americans. Billions and Billions of dollars are spent on these new programs, but terrorism does not come close to being the biggest threat to Americans.

Things like bee stings kill more people each year in the US than terrorism does. If terrorism has gone down so much since 9/11, then why is it being treated as a more and more relevant threat? With this data, one should come to the conclusion that by no means other than to prevent annihilation, should civil liberties and the democratic process be infringed upon to the extent that they are. The US has always claimed its democratic ideals and its possession of freedom to be what makes the country great. Yet when the ideals of American citizenship are tested by acts such as 9/11, America turned to Un-American solutions. Now, the country is set on a path to become a surveillance state unless something is changed.

Work Cited:

Thomas, Klaidman, Hosenball, Isikoff, and Wolffe. “Full Speed Ahead” 1/9/2006, Vol. 147 Issue 2, p10-18

Luiza Savage Maclean’s. 9/2/2013, Vol. 126 Issue 34, p1-1. 1p. 1

The New York Times , Late Edition (East Coast) [New York, N.Y] 11 July 2013: A.18.

The New York Times, Late Edition (East Coast) [New York, N.Y] 10 Aug 2013

The New York Times, Late Edition (East Coast) [New York, N.Y] 31 July 2013:


The New York Times, Late Edition (East Coast) [New York, N.Y] 29 Aug 2013: A.27. Jochen Bittner

To Kill A Mockingbird: Maycomb County Had Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

In the book To Kill A Mockingbird, the narrator stresses that Maycomb County’s sole concern was fear itself. This highlights fear’s importance in the novel as it influences the actions of the townspeople. The quote specifically indicates that Maycomb County residents were troubled solely by their own irrational fears, particularly their fear of the black community. Harper Lee aims to underscore that prejudice in the town is the only genuine cause for worry. The residents of Maycomb County endured various fears, resulting ultimately in their ignorance, hatred, and prejudice.

The main theme of the novel is centered on the fear experienced by the black community. Throughout the book, it becomes clear that many white members of the town hold prejudice against black individuals. For instance, Mrs Dubose tells Jem, “Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!”. The white community consistently employs derogatory terms like ‘niggers’ and other offensive words to refer to black people. Through their use of language such as ‘nigger’ or ‘darky’, the white community perpetuates the misconception that black people are fundamentally different from white people. Consequently, this false belief justifies mistreatment and dehumanization of black individuals. Even young characters in the novel also employ ‘niggers’ to describe black people, underscoring how racial segregation has become deeply ingrained to such an extent that even children adopt these prejudiced viewpoints from an early age.

Tom Robinson’s trial demonstrates yet another instance of prejudice towards black individuals. During his cross-examination, the prosecutor questions Tom about his motivation for aiding Mayella with her chores. Tom responds by saying, “I felt right sorry for her.” The prosecutor’s repetition of Tom’s statement, “You felt sorry for her, you felt sorry for her?”, accentuates the inappropriate nature of a black person expressing sympathy for a white person. Harper Lee further illustrates the widespread disapproval of Tom’s response, stating, “Below us, nobody liked Tom Robinson’s answer.” This highlights that the courtroom shared the prosecutor’s disgust. The act of a black person feeling sorry for a white person was considered unthinkable, reinforcing the perception that black people were inferior to white people.

In the novel, a clear example of racial prejudice against black people is highlighted when Tom Robinson is convicted in his trial, despite overwhelming evidence and everyone in the town knowing of his innocence. This unjust ruling is rooted in the jury’s prejudice against a black man’s testimony over a white man’s, disregarding the evident proof. Fear is identified as the underlying factor that shapes this biased judgment.

The fear of the black community by the white community originated from their own creation of an illusion that black people should be feared simply because they were different. Instead of seeking to comprehend the slightly different characteristics of individuals with darker skin, the white community strengthened their fear by isolating themselves from the black community, thus widening the divide between them. This divide resulted in further misunderstanding, giving rise to ignorance, intolerance, and prejudice towards black people.

In addition to the black community, the residents of Maycomb County also held fear towards poor individuals, whom they derogatorily labeled as ‘trash’. This concept connects to the notion that these fears were born out of a lack of understanding regarding societal minorities. The novel illustrates prejudice against impoverished people through an incident involving Scout’s desire to play with Walter Cunningham. However, her aunt retorts, “He-is-trash, that’s why you can’t play with him!” Furthermore, she explains, “I’ll not have you around him, picking up his habits and learning Lord-knows-what.” This demonstrates Aunt Alexandra’s assumption that simply due to Walter Cunningham’s poverty, he would negatively influence Scout.

The fears of the people in Maycomb County stemmed from their fear of the unknown. The white community in town refused to acknowledge the humanity of black individuals, opting instead to segregate themselves based solely on skin color without making any effort to understand them. Consequently, they remained ignorant about the true essence of the black community. This lack of understanding prompted the white community to construct and spread beliefs that depicted black people as inferior beings, resulting in apprehension towards them. Likewise, Jem, Dill, and Scout each formed their own viewpoints regarding Boo Radley.

The children created fabricated tales about Boo Radley, as he was a mysterious and unfamiliar figure to them. In one such story, Jem described Boo as a towering individual with tracks indicating a height of about six-and-a-half feet. He claimed that Boo consumed raw squirrels and cats, which stained his hands with blood that could never be washed off. Jem also mentioned a visible scar across Boo’s face, while highlighting his yellow and decayed teeth, bulging eyes, and frequent drooling. Although the children were aware that this portrayal of Boo was untrue, they convinced themselves of its veracity because it provided a satisfactory answer to their question about Boo’s identity. They preferred believing a falsehood rather than facing the reality of their ignorance regarding Boo Radley. Similarly, the white community chose to accept the falsehood that black individuals were lesser beings rather than acknowledging their shared humanity with others. Atticus discussed this distorted belief in his speech, referring to the wrongful assumption that all black people were morally corrupt. He emphasized that this assumption was, in fact, an outright lie.

Fear is the source of the injustice in To Kill A Mockingbird, driving false beliefs and assumptions about others. Fear of the unknown and those who are different led to societal hierarchies, such as assuming that black people were immoral and poor people were white-trash. This novel highlights these fears and their destructive nature. Ultimately, the people in Maycomb County had nothing to fear except for their own irrational and harmful fears.


Opinion On Hamdi Vs Rumsfeld Case Issue

Summary of the case: The case Hamdi v. Rumsfeld began on April 28, 2004. It involved Yaser Esam Hamdi, a US citizen born in Louisiana in 1980. Hamdi moved to Saudi Arabia with his family before going to Afghanistan at twenty for work. While there, he was captured by the “Northern Alliance” group and handed over to the US government. Initially taken to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Hamdi was deemed an “enemy combatant” as authorities believed he belonged to a terrorist organization. Upon discovering his American citizenship, he was transferred to a correctional facility in Charleston, South Carolina without legal representation due to his designation as an “enemy combatant”. Disagreeing with this decision, Hamdi’s father filed a petition seeking a “writ of Habeas corpus” in June 2002 claiming that his son’s detention violated the fifth amendment’s Due Process Clauses. Eventually, the case reached the Supreme Court.

Legal Issue/ Legal question: The Legal Issue at hand is related to Due Process in the context of Habeas “litigation.” Numerous inquiries were made regarding this issue, including whether the United States has the authority to detain American citizens as enemy combatants without bringing charges against them and without following the due process clause. Additionally, there is a question about the rights detainees have to challenge their enemy combatant status if they choose to contest it.

Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist held a majority vote stating that Yaser, who is a US citizen, cannot be detained without due process by the executive branch. These justices acknowledged the significance of detaining enemy combatants under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUFM), which was implemented after the September 11 attacks. However, they stressed that Yaser has rights as a citizen and should have the opportunity to challenge his classification as an enemy combatant while being entitled to natural rights and due process. Justice O’Connor also affirmed Yaser’s undeniable right to a fair trial regarding the ongoing proceedings.

The court’s majority opinion was that Yaser should have the right to Due Process protection in order to defend himself against the charges. Justices Souter and Ginsburg agreed with this decision, while Justices Scalia and Stevens strongly opposed the executive power of detention. They believed that if Yaser were to be tried by Congress, it should follow regular criminal law.

Dissent: Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the majority opinion, asserting that Yaser was a combatant and that executive powers should handle his case instead of the judiciary. Justices Scalia and Stevens also concurred that matters falling under other branches should not be interfered with by the court. Thus, it is appropriate for this case to be exclusively managed by executive powers without judicial involvement.

Discussion: The majority ruling was largely accurate. Yaser Hamdi, an American-born citizen, had his rights unjustly taken away, which is absurd. The years of captivity and transfer between prisons had detrimental effects on both Yaser and his family. While Yaser did not commit any specific actions, he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is truly alarming for an American citizen to be detained by their own country without any evidence against them. The United States has a constitution in place to safeguard its citizens’ rights unless they violate the law. This situation mirrors the Bowers v.Hardwick case where two gay men were denied due process for engaging in consensual sexual activities. People’s personal choices should remain their own business, and America should refrain from controlling these choices unless they cause harm to others. The rights of individuals such as rapists, serial killers, and those who attempt to harm others can have their rights revoked.

However, before revoking their rights, there should be evidence proving the guilt of these individuals. Regardless of the circumstances, all these individuals are American citizens and have the right to defend themselves. Therefore, it is unjust to strip an American citizen of their rights without sufficient evidence. The decisions made by the executive powers in this case were highly flawed. Yaser’s almost two-year imprisonment felt like that of someone wrongly convicted, a truly terrible feeling. Many believed that it was the president’s responsibility to handle this situation, but creating unjust laws will not solve anything. Every American citizen is entitled to due process even if they were labeled as an “enemy combatant.” The nation was still gripped by fear from the aftermath of 9/11 which led to the implementation of unconstitutional regulations. Yaser had his citizenship renounced and faced travel restrictions without ever being charged, which was unfair. I fail to understand why Yaser’s citizenship would be revoked since he was not charged as an enemy combatant. Congress deemed it necessary to impose punishment on him for their own satisfaction despite the ongoing war on terror; however, it is important for the United States not to overlook people’s rights. The constitution guarantees that citizens are informed about their role in our government and fear should not undermine these rights.

In conclusion, despite the presentation of some valid arguments by the majority, I firmly oppose the unjust decision to revoke Yaser’s citizenship.

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