New anti-terrorism law lacks necessary power to be effective
Published: Monday, November 5, 2001
Updated: Friday, June 15, 2012 23:06
Last week, President Bush signed the new anti-terrorism bill into law. While both supporters and critics agree the law lays a foundation for an intelligence-gathering system of unprecedented scale, the FBI, CIA and Congress can do more in the search for the terrorists. However, the legislation does not allow them the rights and powers they need to complete the job effectively.
The new law, known as the USA Patriot Act, shifts the primary power of the FBI from solving crimes to gathering domestic intelligence. In addition, it empowers the FBI and CIA with many new and vast opportunities for increased surveillance. As a result, these changes have caused some to wonder about the implications on our civil liberties. The ACLU, among others, has threatened to challenge these new laws.
In recent days, discussions have arisen as to whether torture is appropriate when attempting to extract information from a detainee. Furthermore, many have suggested there are constraints on the FBI prohibiting the covert operations that may be needed to root out the terrorists. Of course, our civil liberties are important, yet we must keep in mind the people we are attempting to track down lack rules, morals, ethics and rights for their people and therefore, we must fight them on their terms.
Every American citizen treasures the rights granted to him or her. While it is not necessary or appropriate to initiate a period of lawlessness, the government must be given the power it needs to find those who are supporting, planning and executing terrorist acts. Giving the government an opportunity to check voice mails, intercept telephone calls, read e-mails and access other information should only be of concern to those who are committing crimes.
At this point in our history, is it not possible for us to place the importance of our national security and future above our greedy desires for complete individuality and civil rights? A line should be drawn somewhere, but insisting on maintaining liberal views of civil rights in a scenario such as that with which we are presented is utterly absurd and fruitless.
Some have offered the opinion that the FBI is not able to conduct covert operations because they are not permitted to be dishonest in giving their identity. In other words, an agent could not infiltrate a terrorist cell without first explaining that he or she is an agent and would like to ask the terrorists some questions. Obviously, this would be of little assistance in penetrating al-Qaeda or other terrorist organizations. The FBI must be given the right to use additional means to accomplish our goal, yet these rights were not present in the anti-terrorism bill. They need to receive the distinct ability to conduct covert operations. The previous ways of conducting investigations in a clean, neat and above-the-board fashion will not prove to be productive or beneficial in this new war we are waging.
From a theoretical view, one should be reminded of the fact that we live in a world where anarchy is present. The Hobbesian view of a nasty, brutish and short life may be somewhat extreme, yet by evaluating our present situation it is possible to imagine such a fear setting into our culture. E. H. Carr has written that a harmony of interests among nations is not present, regardless of the situation. When considering such theories, we must come to the realization we are fighting people who do not have laws such as we do. They will fight a nasty and brutish life, and die young for their cause. They hope to instill a factor of immense fear into American society. They do not want us to harmonize with them and cooperate — they prefer to destroy us. We are underestimating our enemy, not providing our government with the resources it needs to defend us, and in short, we are writing our own history if we do not gather up the muster to accomplish our mission completely.
Should the FBI and CIA obtain the powers they need, it is not necessary to make extreme powers permanent. A minute sacrifice on the part of the American citizens now may prevent further destruction in the future. Perhaps through offering more powers to the FBI and CIA, the terrorist attacks could have been avoided. Our government is the most powerful on earth, yet we have constrained it to such a point where it can no longer protect our interests and national security when we need it the most.
Sara Marie Eichenberger, the Voice of Realism, is a graduate student in international relations theory and military history. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.