The court to collect this information (Breslow); however, President

The passage of the
Patriot Act ushered in a new phase of the debate of what is more important,
liberty or security. It is well known that Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Those
who would trade liberty for temporary security deserve neither.” The quick
growth of technology across the world has led to new security concerns, as the
potential threats to global and national security have risen during the past
four decades and exponentially since the 9/11 attacks, and the government has
responded by increasing security measures that many believe to be too extreme
in counteracting terror. The Transportation Security Administration, for
example, has never caught a terrorist despite being a massive inconvenience to
travelers. The NSA, widely believed to be spying on American citizens, was
created to collect data on millions of Americans and better organize the
government response to threats of terrorism. With technological changes, the discussion of liberty
and security will continue to change and new issues will be brought to the
forefront of the public mind. This paper will analyze the major ways in which the
discussion is changing and how the creation of the Department of Homeland
Security will continue to shape it.

            The National Security Agency was
created in 1952; however, it was the passage of the Patriot Act that allowed
the NSA to dramatically increase its spying capability. The NSA was authorized
to store the phone records of suspected terrorists, along with email and other
information. President Bush authorized the NSA to also collect the meta-records
of millions of American citizens as well; thus, without wiretapping warrants,
no record is kept based on what was said, but the government agency can review
who was contacted and how long the phone call lasted. Since the NSA can collect
all of the data except for the audio, many have raised concerns that this
violates the liberties of Americans by assuming that we are all suspects (Diamond). Some believe that this is private
information that the government has no authority or business collecting,
despite several court rulings supporting the clause that this data is not
inherently private.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

            Perhaps the most important aspect of
this is the assumption that Americans are now automatically suspects in the
digital age. The Libertarian Party would argue that collection of data implies
that individuals are “persons of interest” and that everyone is therefore a
suspect. The Patriot Act stipulates that the government must receive a warrant
issued by a secret FISA court to collect this information (Breslow); however, President Bush argued that the
collection of meta-data would only be useful if it could be done to millions of
Americans, and these courts allowed for some degree of autonomy as a result.
This would further the argument that Americans are closely monitored and
therefore assume to be suspected. After all, the question of implied guilt is
important in a legal context, as a skilled lawyer would argue that the
government pursues policies that individuals are suspects through the
collection of evidence, and as this meta-data can be used as evidence, this is
a very important aspect of the bigger picture.

So
how does this affect the idea of liberty in American society? To begin with,
American society was founded on the idea that people are innocent until proven
guilty. The overall acceptance of NSA programs reveals that Americans are
becoming increasingly more comfortable with trading liberty for security. The
counterargument to this has always been that if one has done nothing wrong,
they have nothing to fear. However, that defies the very idea of liberty. The
traditional, Webster definition of liberty is, “the
state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by
authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.”
The government has shown its ineptitude in matters of the law, and indeed,
governments around the world for centuries have imprisoned those that think
differently or disagree politically. In a secret courtroom where one is not
judged by one’s peers but by judges whom the public will never see, liberty is
absent from the process. The Founding Fathers envisioned a governing system
where the government fears the people, and not the people fearing the
government. This is part of the reason why the Second Amendment was added, and
why the freedom of the press was included in the First Amendment.

Thus, the American idea of liberty itself is changing. More and
more people are becoming inclined to trusting the government instead of
enjoying their liberties. This conversation is becoming increasingly important,
especially as law enforcement becomes more and more adept at using technology
to monitor movement and information (Williams). History has shown that these steps proceed the rule of
tyranny; the popular allusions are to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, and while
these may be overdone, the references are applicable. Liberty in America is
unlikely to be challenged in a sweeping political revolution, but instead
handed over gradually, piece by piece. This is the fear that many have when
protesting against the NSA, and they cite the changing views on liberty and
security as the biggest threat to traditional American values. As technology
increases and the public’s fear increases, the push towards increased
surveillance is likely to continue. What would have been considered unthinkable
one hundred years ago is now the norm, and as American society has changed
throughout the decades, so too has the concentration of power into the hands of
the executive branch and the increased removal of these more abstract parts of
liberty.