Balance between Individual Liberty and Public Security
In the 21st century, it is becoming difficult to balance between liberty and public security, especially with the growing challenge of terrorism. The Founding Fathers framed the Declaration of Independence with an intention of having absolute liberty for every American citizen. They wanted America to be independent so that everybody would be able to conduct their businesses without interferences, especially from the government. With this, people would be free to pursue dreams towards happiness and prosperity. However, with the growing threat of terrorism and internal crime, various cases in courts have made it more difficult to balance between liberty and public security. Some of the liberties that people should enjoy include freedom of expression, association and movement – which the culprits exploit in planning and execution of serious crimes (Melnick, 2009). The courts have tried to strike the balance between civil liberties and public security. Individuals and groups have won cases in situations where civil liberties have been limited in order to achieve public security.
After the 9/11, certain legislations came into effect in order to allow for more security operations and measures that limit terrorist activities. One of the measures is detention without trial for individuals suspected to have participated in organized crime or terrorism. As much as this is a measure against terrorism, it acts to bring a constant state of emergency within the affected states. It is important to note that since the 9/11, terrorist activities have reduced because of the measures in place. However, individuals and organizations have gone to courts in cases where individual liberties have been denied in the pretext of public security. It seems like civil liberties lost their meaning post 9/11 considering the laws that allowed actions like torture. Torture is a fundamental right that goes beyond the mere liberties. Nevertheless, it seems that erosion of civil liberties has undergone normalization until they are part of the American system.
It comes out that most of the security measures in place that limit liberty end up making restrictions without achieving the needed security. The USA Patriot Act is one such legislation that gives power to the security agencies to access private communications without notice in an attempt to achieve public security. The Act takes away some of the fundamental rights of private citizens and protection against unwarranted searches, affecting the balance between the civil liberties and public security. According to Justice Arthur Goldberg, the government cannot use the pretext of war in order to limit the freedom and liberties of the people (Kennedy v Mendoza-Martinez). In his ruling, Justice Goldberg notes that during emergencies, the government is tempted to limit the freedom of the people (Hendrie, 2011). However, the constitution guarantees protection of people at all times, whether at peace or at war.
Detention of suspects without charge is another significant challenge facing the judicial system. For example, the U.S. Federal security detained fourteen foreigners without trial at Guantanamo Bay and later executed them, which led to the Rasul v Bush case. The courts determined that all foreign suspects under federal jurisdiction should be treated similar to the U.S. suspects (Hendrie, 2011). In the case, the court ruled that it was necessary for all suspects under the U.S. authority to get entitlement to a fair trial and representation. The ruling indicates the willingness by the Supreme Court to streamline some of the security measures meant to secure the nation while limiting civil liberties.
Hendrie, E. (2011). 9/11 enemies foreign and domestic: Secret evidence censored from the official record proves traitors aided Israel in attacking the USA. Garrisonville, Va: Green Mountain Pub.
Melnick, J. P. (2009). 9/11 culture: America under construction. Chichester, West Sussex, U.K: Wiley-Blackwell.