Even after a year, it’s too early to know what September 11th will eventually come to symbolize for our country. What it should not symbolize is a turning point beyond which Americans willingly began giving up some of the very liberties that made, and keep this country great.
Before the attacks, Americans were complacent about terrorism. In the year since, many Americans seem to have become even more complacent about our freedoms. Freedom of association, freedom of information, freedom of speech, freedom from unreasonable searches and other freedoms have been eroded, not just for terrorists, but also for innocent Americans. As Cato Institute’s Tim Lynch admonishes, “policymakers… should focus their attention on combating terrorism within the framework of a free society.”
Government’s failure to protect the lives of thousands of Americans on September 11, 2001 cannot be used as an excuse to reduce the liberties of all Americans in 2002 and beyond. We all accept some limited restrictions on our freedoms. However, as Reason Foundation’s Robert Poole explains in his report Improving Airport Passenger Screening, even these might be mitigated with innovative policy.
In any event, we should never let such restrictions morph into permanent violations of our Constitutional rights. Otherwise, we risk finding out how true Ben Franklin’s words were when he told us that those who give up essential liberty in order to secure some temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
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