March 02, 2005

Balancing Liberty Versus Security

Daniel Pipes' most recent column is in regard to the case of Ahmed Omar Abu Ali the American student charged in an alleged conspiracy to kill President Bush.

Pipes writes:

For a free people in the age of terrorism, what is the proper balance between civil liberties and national security?

It is one of the most important questions the United States is going to face, something that impacts who we are and where our future is headed. And the question does not have a uniform answer or approach to it Pipes addresses the challenge that the country faces.

Conservatives focus on the hair-raising news that an Al Qaeda affiliate had plans to kill the president of the United States. Liberals hardly note this development, focusing instead on the question of whether, while in Saudi custody, Mr. Abu Ali was tortured (Justice Department officials call this an "utter fabrication"). Note the editorials in four northeastern newspapers:

The New York Times: This case is "another demonstration of what has gone wrong in the federal war on terror. In an undisciplined attempt to wring statements out of any conceivable suspect, American officials have worked with countries like Saudi Arabia."

The Washington Post: "the courts need to ensure that no evidence obtained by torture - with or without the connivance of the U.S. government - is used to convict people in U.S. courts.

The Baltimore Sun writes (dripping with sarcasm) that, "By unsealing a federal indictment against Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, the U.S. government garnered headlines about an alleged terrorist plot, instead of the unexplained imprisonment of an American citizen in Saudi Arabia. It portrayed Mr. Abu Ali has [sic] someone other than a victim of torture. The government may think its secret is safe. But it isn't.

Newsday's editorial is titled "Shame on Bush for rights violation."

I agree with Pipes' assessment when he says

"These liberal analysts evince no concern that an American citizen trained by the Saudi government in Virginia will stand trial for plotting to assassinate the president. They decline to explore the implications of this stunning piece of news. They offer no praise to law enforcement for having broken a terrorism case. Instead, they focus exclusively on evidentiary procedures. They know only civil liberties; national security does not register."

The question is, what is the appropriate balance between vigilance and civil liberties. What are we willing to risk to maintain our way of life and what do we have to give up to do so. It is not an easy decision.

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