Our civil rights

Letter to the Editor

Posted: Sunday, February 02, 2003

Americans face security vs. freedom issues the like of which have not confronted us in a generation. It appears we are bound in another generation-long effort against an elusive and clandestine enemy. This enemy is determined to strike with stealth from the mass of our population. To counter him, we are told, the federal government must have new powers. Many of those powers strike at the Bill of Rights, a document that for over 200 years has made America the envy of the world.

Freedom vs. security: our forefathers understood the issue. They understood that government in order to maintain order and protect its citizens needed to be strong. But, they also feared (having recently fought a revolution against tyranny) that unchecked power could lead to the suppression of liberties. They instituted the Separation of Powers, but even so, several states would not have ratified the Constitution without the promise of a Bill of Rights, a promise that the new government promptly kept.

The Bill of Rights grants our most fundamental rights, including press, speech, religion, assembly, "right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects," and to a "speedy and public trial by an impartial jury..."

Today some people view the Patriot Act, The Homeland Security Bill, TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System), TIA (Total Information Awareness), a program of cyber-surveillance, and the creation of Terrorist and Threat Integration Center as government measures needed to protect our country. Others see these measures as evidence of the tipping of the balance of power (power evenly divided between the executive, legislative and judicial branches) to the executive branch and as a full attack on our basic liberties.

Dozens of U.S cities in response to citizen's fears have passed resolutions that affirm their commitment to the Bill of Rights and record their opposition to the federal government's incursions. As one resolution stated: The city will "not assist or voluntarily cooperate with investigations, interrogations, or arrest procedures, public or clandestine, that are in violation of individuals' civil rights or civil liberties."

Fairbanks has passed Resolution NO. 4036 ("A resolution to defend the Bill of Rights and civil liberties), Anchorage is looking at a draft and CBJ's Human Rights Commission has endorsed a draft and the draft will soon be sent to the City Assembly.

The issue of security vs. civil liberties is once again before us. I encourage all to take part in the discussion, engage in the debate, a debate that has always been glorious and sacred to our country.

Andrea Doll

Juneau



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