October 3, 2001 | News Releases on Department of Homeland Security
WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2001-Declaring that "there is no more basic civil liberty than the right not to be blown to bits," a new Heritage Foundation paper says it is terrorism itself-not, as some critics claim, the Bush administration's efforts to fight it-that represents the greatest threat to American civil liberties.
"Policy-makers must do everything in their power to preserve our most basic liberties, including due process, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the right to free speech," says Heritage Vice President Kim Holmes and Edwin Meese, chairman of Heritage's Center for Legal and Judicial Studies. "But Americans do not have a right to complete privacy if it endangers the lives of others."
The administration's anti-terrorism package, for the most part, strikes the right balance between privacy and security, they say. It would update wiretapping laws to conform to changing technologies, permit information-sharing between law-enforcement agencies and intelligence groups, and keep classified information from leaking in court. It would also let the government detain non-Americans deemed a threat to national security.
These measures may not be perfect, according to Holmes and Meese, but they're preferable to the alternative. "Imagine what would happen if the war on terrorism fails," they say. "Repeated attacks would create panic, and a backlash against civil liberties would result. As the casualty toll grew, the calls for draconian measures would make the relatively modest provisions in the Bush anti-terrorism package pale by comparison."
That's why the United States must act quickly and decisively to defuse the terrorist threat. "The campaign against terrorism may take many years," they say, "but it must be forceful and determined in the short run to protect our civil liberties in the long run."