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COLUMN SEVENTY-FIVE, SEPTEMBER 1, 2002
(Copyright 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)

BY MURIEL DOBBIN

DO WE HAVE TO GIVE UP OUR CIVIL LIBERTIES TO DEFEND AGAINST TERRORISM

Subject: Poll: Half willing to suspend freedoms
Date: Mon, 15 Jul 2002 21:22:22 -0700
From: "venire" venire@znet.com
To: blackj@bigmagic/com

From http://www.detnews.com/2002/nation/0207/08/a03-531241.htm

Poll: Half willing to suspend freedoms  

Civil libertarians say public unaware of rights it would trade for safety

By Muriel Dobbin / McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON---Living under the continuing threat of terrorism that might prove worse than last September's attacks, Americans are faced with the dilemma of how much to sacrifice in civil liberties for safety.

A new poll showing that almost half of 1,000 surveyed are willing to curtail basic freedoms to protect their country evokes concern among some civil libertarians, while others assert that a wartime mentality of survivalism has evolved over the nine months since the terrorists struck.

Former Sen. Gary Hart, co-chairman of the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century, said it would be very difficult to find a balance when a pendulum was swinging between security and liberty.

"A lot will depend on whether there are more attacks. If there are, we will suspend a lot more liberties," he predicted.

Christopher Edley, a Harvard law professor who is a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, believes that familiar safeguards of civil liberties might not be up to the current challenge. He suggested that the proposed Homeland Security Department should include an office of rights and liberties that would report to the public as well as to the president.

Neil Livingstone, president of Global Options, a Washington-based anti-terrorism consulting group, said, "We have to try to preserve our security without eroding civil liberties, but they will take a back seat to security, especially in our dealing with foreign nationals who have no constitutional rights in this country."

The Williamsburg Foundation survey of 1,000 people nationwide showed that 49 percent took the position that "if we need to relinquish some of our personal freedoms and privacies to protect our country, we should be prepared to do that." Another 53 percent agreed that the FBI should be allowed "greater monitoring powers."

Colin Campbell, foundation president, said, "the critical question is how Americans are willing to go in giving up freedoms that they now take for granted. That is my concern."

Campbell is worried that people are not aware enough of the significance of those liberties they are willing to surrender. He suggested that a "national dialogue" was needed to make sure people were not being "cavalier and unaware of vulnerabilities that would be exposed if they lost some basic freedoms."

"We don't want a situation where people are not paying attention until it is too late," he said.

But Robert Turner, a professor of international law at the University of Virginia, said, "What limitations may be placed on civil liberties is a hard call. I don't like it, but we also have to remember that to err on the wrong side can put lives at risk."

Turner, who said he had been lecturing on terrorism around the country, said the findings of the Williamsburg poll troubled him but did not surprise him.

"I have a 9-year-old son who plays in the front yard, and if there were a deranged person roaming around, we would have to take all kinds of precautions we would not normally take. That is what we are looking at here," he said.  ##

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