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Posted by Harvey on June 6, 2003 04:33:09 UTC

Nothing happens quickly, and you'd have to have catastrophic events to push us toward that kind of direction. Let's put it this way. When Ashcroft goes to sleep he isn't thinking that he's a negative force in terms of our civil liberties and he is putting a lot of thought on our civil liberties (I believe that). The problem is, his job is also to protect us from catastrophic damage which we are a lot more vunerable than we would like to think. So, it is a very, very difficult assignment for our government - one that they may not be quite able to do the job with 100% effectiveness.

When Pogo said "we have met the enemy and he is us..." the quote didn't just mean 'us' in terms of the government (or Ashcroft or Bush or whoever else). He meant 'us'. Right now many people are concerned with civil liberties, too many for there to be any real danger. What I am concerned about is the possibility that civil liberties would disappear because we would all (i.e., 99% of us) fear the open society as too dangerous for our own safety. That's when civil liberties are in danger.

The problem with the current situation is that we might make it easier to react to a catastrophic situation (e.g., release of WMDs on society) in a manner that permanently damages civil liberties. These liberties, as you know, are much harder to gain than they are to lose. I fear with modern technology that a Western world concerned about its safety would have all the tools needed to permanently suppress the 1st and 4th amendments. First protection becomes temporary then it becomes permanent.

The problem is not that the threat is exaggerated, the problem is that the threat is real. I would say we can live with the consequences of terror, but unfortunately civilization just can't function if our safety is threatened. Welcome to the 21st century.

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