CIVILLIBERTIES VERSUS SECURITY
Civilliberties refer to personal guarantees, immunities, privileges,freedom, inalienable rights or universal suffrage that citizens ofany given country have that the government can not abridge by anyjudicial proceeding. Civil liberties encompasses freedom ofexpression, privacy, freedom of conscience, right to life, right toown property and right to fair trial among many others which areentrenched individual rights in the constitution. However, civilliberties in the modern society are mere rhetoric individuals do notenjoy full civil liberties especially in regard to matters ofnational security. In the contemporary society national interestshave overshadowed civil liberties creating conflicts and ‘erosionof absolute civil liberties on citizens’. Nothing has exemplifiedthis phenomenon than the post September 11 attack and the rise interrorism activities. It is common that certain individual Civilliberties have been traded at the expense of pursuing nationalinterests. This paper presents a discussion based on scholarly reviewof interplay between civil liberties and security.
Civilliberties versus security
Onone recent occasion President Obama pointed out, ‘youcan not have 100 percent security and 100 percent privacy and zeroinconvenience’.Indeed the American history is full of conflict between civilliberties and national security interests. While the governments havebeen vocal in justifying civil infringement for the sake of nationalsecurity, many have described this notion as infringement on civilliberties and especially privacy. Alfred, in his article surveillanceand scandal observes that in the history of NSA surveillance purposehas never been security concern but pure ‘blackmail’. Theexpansion of NSA programs to monitor the world has been used by theUnited States as a strategy to maintain its dominance in the planet(McCoy, 2014 pg 2).
Heobserves that surveillance has been used by US for over a century inlooking for scandalous and scurrilous information as a key weapon ofmaintaining global dominion. It is noted that heavy investments havebeen used in NSA acquisition of modern technological communicationequipments for tapping global communications of American and foreignleaders. This program has been used for decades to carry out massivedomestic and global planetary spying. While this surveillance isimportant for USA trade, diplomacy and war strategy, much of theswept data is intimate information which has been used to leveragesensitive dealings and negotiations in the world. The NSAsurveillance has been used as a cost effective strategy in projectingglobal power at a time when imperial and technological austerity istaking place at the global level.
Stoneobserves that, ‘state surveillance has leapt forward in technologyten league boots while civil liberties have crawled along behind atsnails pace of law and legislation’. History records that, statetension and citizen contraction over surveillance has for over acentury pushed the government in recurring cycles of surveillance.There has been unchecked illegal surveillance on the public and pressas a counter intelligence technique by the government when faced withcriticism for engaging in foreign wars (McCoy,2014 pg 3).
Thefirst case of public surveillance occurred after World War II wherethe US government kept surveillance on the disloyal German Americans.Later, this developed to wiretapping of telephone communications bythe FBI as a way of garnering political power by the power elites. Acase is told of Hoover who capitalized in secret surveillance of hispolitical opponents to gain unchecked power that was used to dictatethe countries direction and programs to implement. Although thisstrategy had been halted by the surveillance act of 1978 ‘FISAcourts’, in the wake of terrorism President Bush ordered return tocovert surveillance of private communication of all nation telephoneswithout FISA directives. The NSA surveillance has since beenlegalized and billions of messages have been tapped to monitor worldleaders. It is noted that with digitalization of communication worldwide through optic fibers, NSA is able to monitor political, economicand private life (Frum,2014, pg 3).
Recordsindicate that, recently the NSA from 2010 has been applyingsophisticated soft wares to break various individuals’ sensitiveinformation. This indicates how national and alien civil liberties ofprivacy have been infringed in the quest for world domination. Bycollecting sensitive and scandalous intimate information the U.Sgovernment interferes with civil liberties and domination of aliensocieties. This also projects abstract imperialism by gazing onoperational information of aliens’ dissidents as a strategy to havea jump start on dealings and negotiations. In addition, scandalousinformation about leaders could be used to discredit or coerce theminto compliance. Similarly such private information could be used inmaking unfair bilateral negotiators. Alfred, observes that, ‘ifSnowden revelation about NSA obsession with private life of prominentindividuals was right, then the goal of NSA surveillance of worldleaders was not ideally security but political blackmail since 1898’(Stone,2007, pg 1).
Assessingthis historical surveillance by NSA, one can observe that indeed thesurveillance has had little to do with security, but rather as aweapon of discrediting political opponents, human rights activist andother individuals considered barriers to power and dominion. Inrecent NSA executive convention, President Obama also admitted on theexcesses of data massive sensitive data collected. World leaders havealso reacted harshly in the light of the NSA surveillance revelation(Frum, 2014, pg 3).
Inan article written by David Frum, he observes that governmenttransparency can be enemy to civil liberty of its citizens. Heobserves that, after October 2002 terrorist attack in Indonesia thatleft more Australian dead in two nightclubs, the Australiangovernment in collaboration with US, kept close surveillance onIndonesia communications. He observes that, ‘the reason why statesmaintain secrecy of intelligence information is the same reasonstates collect such intelligence information’. If the Indonesiangovernment had disclosed to its citizens on the communicationsurveillance of Australia and US, this would have led to negativereactions on the natives on foreign infringement of their civilliberties.
However,for security purpose intelligence gathering national governmentsshould have unrestrained obligation over civil liberties but agreedmeasures should be observed when collecting data nations without thestates consents. In addition, the rights of public in any givencountry can not in any way be limited by foreign secret organizationswithout agreement with the state government. Citizens pledge theirloyalty to their government which protects and uphold the rights ofits citizens and as such foreign spy agencies like the NSA have nobasis in enforcing themselves globally collecting uncheckedinformation(David, 1997, pg 212).
AsDavid observes, in a world where individuals’ rights are infringedon is a world of no liberties because rights do not enforcethemselves rather rights are only effective if only upheld by thegovernment of the day whose citizens pledge loyalty and pay taxes tohave their rights safeguarded. Effective governments are not againstcitizens rights but in the light of predators, governments arevindicators of civil liberties. As such freedom not protected bypower is not liberty and power unguided by information is not powerat all and in the same note information need for national securitycan not be obtained gentlemanly (Frum,2014, pg 3).
Indeedthe American history is rich with information of conflictinginterplay between civil liberties and national security interests.This phenomenon was not only played out in the American nation butwas also extended to foreign nations as a way of imperialisticdomination through spying pertinent private, national and sensitiveinformation that would assist the United States power elite in havinga leveraging negotiation advantages over their unsuspecting allies ofenemies. Under the doctrine of civil liberties, individuals have inalienable rights which could only be dethroned from individuals onlyunder special circumstances. However, from the leaked historical dataof NSA activities globally and at home, indicates grievousinfringement on civil liberties of its citizens as well as foreignaliens.
Thesurveillance technology created by America since the Philippinesoccupation in 1898, has been used to most extent to harassindividuals whose ideals challenged the United States interestsactivists, journalists and the public have been victims of thissurveillance. The essence of a powerful global panoptic insurveillance terrorist activities and movements at global level cannot be underemphasized. However, the misuse of this strategy ingathering sensitive information of world leaders, individuals,domestic and foreign citizens in order to have a leverage advantagein manipulating dealings or coercion is outright infringement onindividuals liberty and as such whether the information gathered isfor security reasons, betrays the essence of that information if itcan not guard against individual rights. Indeed civil liberties havelittle space in the 21stcentury sophisticated surveillance in quest for imperialisticdominion in the world.
AlfredMcCoy, ‘Surveillanceand Scandal’,2014 Guernica, A magazine of Arts &politics, Retrieved from,http://www.guernicamag.com/daily/alfred-mccoy-surveillance-and-scandal/
FrumDavid, ‘Weneed more secrecy why the government transparency can be the enemyof liberty’,2014, Internet Resource,http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/05/we-need-more-secrecy/359820/
DavidM.Rabban, ‘FreeSpeechin Its ForgottenYears’328. US: Cambridge University Press
Stone,Geoffrey R. ‘WarandLiberty:AnAmerican Dilemma1790to thePresent64-67’5California Law Review 2203 (2007).
AlfredW. McCoy, ‘Surveillance Blowback’, 2014, Internet Resource,http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alfred-w-mccoy/surveillance-state-history_b_3596164.html
Stone,R. Geoffrey, ‘National Security V. Civil Liberties’, 5 CaliforniaLaw Review 2203 (2007).