War on Terrorism: Security vs. Civil Liberties


In pursuit of a terrorism-free globe, the American government has endeavored to enact and pass several legislations, which have been viewed on one side as a plan to frustrate the efforts of achieving full civil liberty. The following work serves to present how civil liberty has been traded at the expense of security through the various laws passed by Congress. These laws have empowered the law enforcement agents such as the FBI to an extent that no one can hold them responsible regarding their actions. Consequently, both American citizens and immigrants are daily struggling to reclaim the rights lost in the name of pursuing national security.


Following this unfolding of terrorism, the American government enacted some programs, which have raised controversy as far as Civil liberty is concerned. Putting these programs into perspective, civil liberty is found to have taken a back seat about matters about terrorism. The September 11th attack on the United States sparked a great concern on what the future holds about terrorism. In the minds of many people, this signaled the beginning of a very dark period tarnished with fear of more attacks and counter-attacks.


Congress decided to extend the foreign intelligence act served to frustrate efforts towards public liberty. Alongside this provision, Congress allowed telecommunication firms to disclose information to law enforcement. This move served to ensure that the respective firms remain unquestionable even after giving unwarranted information.

The temporal extension of the patriot act from late 2005 until March 2006 despite its controversial provisions served as another obstacle to the public liberty. Later, Congress reached an accord with the administration that only helped to satisfy the demands of some of the opponents hence the passing of the revision of the bill. The revision legitimized the FBI’s actions about accessing an individual’s or organization’s library and business records. In addition, following the proposal, literature provided by the national security were obsolete as far as the provision of records from the public library is concerned. This takes in the provision of basic internet access and on the other side still used to get records from libraries that serve as internet service providers.

The patriot act had the following provisions that presented more controversy as far as public liberty is concerned. First is the “Domestic Terrorism” definition that has been defined as “acts dangerous to human life that serves to violate the criminal law of the United States or any state” and that “look like intended to impact the policy of a government by pressure. The broad definition affects an individual or a group of persons exercising the right to assemble and to dissent.

The second avenue of information is the library bookstore records. These records allow FBI agents to obtain records from bookstores and libraries. These records may be concerning the borrowed or purchased books, in addition to personal information on the computer library usage in the library. Employees working in these libraries and bookstores are in turn not supposed to reveal such information. The point of concern is the likelihood that blameless scholars suddenly fall into suspicion. Moreover; librarians find themselves acting as secret investigators (Reed & Dumper, 2012).

Educational records are the other provision, which the attorney general may use to implore a learning agency to provide educational information “important” to a legal inquiry of “local or global terrorism”. The main point of concern, in this case, is that this information is “relevant” to the criminal inquiry that serves to undermine the confidentiality of educational annals (Larry & Miller, 2011).

Searches, which are not Judicially Supervised, also serve to pose the controversy in the quest for public liberties. Here, the FBI has the authority to gather “international intelligence information” without permission. This provision supports unsupervised authority that oversteps constitutional protections against unreasonable searches (Cohen & Wells, 2004).

The Roving Wiretaps is another provision. This provision is provided for by the Secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Under this provision, the law enforcing agencies use special gadgets mounted on any device used by a suspected terrorist, without minding in whose possession the device is present. This infringes the privacy rights of many other people as the police can listen to all phones in areas where such a suspected person shop, works, or even walk (Darmer& Stuart 2004).

Home searches through the “Sneak and Peek” Authority provision of the patriot act also serve to undermine the public liberty. The provision allows the law enforcing g agencies to search one’s premises even when nobody is present and without giving prior notification. A delayed notification can be authorized by a court if it is found that the provision of a close notice may not yield the desired outcome. The negative part of this provision is that it violates the profound traditional area of privacy for the individual. Moreover, this practice is subject to overuse and extreme abuse.

The patriot act also serves to allow the America secretary of state to label any distant or internal group that linked to violent activity “a terrorist organization” (Farber, 2008). With such provision, there is a possibility of misuse by the government to get broader investigatory authority over groups devoted to fully peaceful undertakings.

The second lastly is the provision to detain immigrants. The attorney general is empowered under this act to endorse settlers as threats, hence the demand for indefinite detention of such people. This power is exceptional in times of peace and is reminiscent of the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II (Bardes, Shelley, & Schmidt2011).

Finally, this act provides Denial of Specified Non-citizens U.S. Entry. Under this provision, representatives of political parties, social or other closely linked groups whose public endorsement surmounts to terrorist activities face mobility restrictions. This provision has its shortcoming as it allows barring of persons for their speech or associational activities.

Apart from the controversy offered by the patriot act, there was the authorization of a national security agency to conduct wiretapping without necessarily working on a court order. This program was a complete violation of U.S law and civil liberties according to the critics. Perpetrators of this practice argue out that it was limited and used only to capture communications of identified possible terrorists. The secrecy of the program serves to hinder the pursuit of public liberty as it prevents any forceful analysis of such proclaimed sensibleness (Larry & Miller, 2011).

Another notable unfolding was the approval of the “Real ID act” by Congress. The act served to establish new procedures for dispensing driver’s licenses that simply implied no secret about electronic access to the records is concerned. This move posed several problems ranging from privacy matters to an increase in the cases of identity theft. In addition, this meant a greater number of bureaucrats could access personal information on people national wide (Farber, 2008).


In conclusion, it is important to note that civil liberty is an important part of humanity. Consequently, even in the face of terrorism fears the governments today should try as much as possible not to frustrate public efforts to gain this liberty.


Bardes, B.A, Shelley, M.C, & Schmidt, S.W. (2011). American Government and Politics Today: The Essentials. Sidney: Cengage Learning.

Cohen, D. B, & Wells, J.W. (2004). American National Security and Civil Liberties in an Era of Terrorism. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Darmer, K.B, & Stuart E. Rosenbaum, S.E. (2004). BairdCivil Liberties Versus National Security in a Post-9/11 World. Detroit: Prometheus Books.

Farber, D.A. (2008). Security Versus Liberty. Sidney: Russell Sage Foundation.

Larry K. Gaines, L.K, & Miller, R.M. (2011). Criminal Justice in Action. New York: Cengage Learning.

Reed, E.D, & Dumper, M. (2012). Civil Liberties, National Security and Prospects for Consensus:Legal, Philosophical and Religious Perspectives. London: Cambridge University Press.

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