Issues in Homeland Security
The following presents an overview of issues in homeland security, following 9/11. How security efforts affect the people of the U.S. and how it affects citizen rights and privacy rights is discussed. The effects of securing borders and using searching techniques in airports, on these rights is explored. This is followed by a summary and conclusion.
Security Following 9/11
The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 were the most devastating in the history of America (Gottfried, 2003). Also noted by Gottfried, President Bush proclaimed that these attacks were against freedom itself. To guard against future attacks, security actions were taken immediately. Bridges and tunnels, the San Francisco and Los Angeles International Airports, and the United Nations were closed, all flights in the U.S. were halted, downtown Westside of New York City was evacuated, the World Bank in Washington and federal buildings were emptied, and armed secret service agents were placed around the White House. Four thousand operatives from different government agencies began to focus on determining the source of the attacks and how to guard against them. Since these efforts the U.S. government has issued terror code warnings that have affected the way that Americans live and travel. Unjustified arrests of young men of Arab descent were typical following the 9/11 attacks and the government was being criticized along with the President for security actions that are considered by some to be unconstitutional (Gottfried, 2003).
Following these early efforts to secure the homeland, the criminal justice, including law enforcement agencies, courts, and corrections, all became involved in the process that ensures homeland security. Within this structure, all decisions must be based on the due process that provides guarantees of the U.S. Constitution (U.S. Department of Justice; Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2004). Terrorism has become a major fear since September 11, 2001. The police in criminal justice agencies face an ongoing effort to prevent terrorism in the community. They must investigate every report about a possible threat to the community and they must seek to arrest anyone that is a potential threat. When the community has a large population of foreigners that appear to many as possible terrorists, fear levels in the community are higher and the police receive many phone calls about possibly threatening situations or suspicious people.
The 9/11 terrorism attacks may have taken many by surprise, but the FBI and local enforcement agencies have since rallied since to make every effort to ensure the safety and well being of this country. For example, the FBI is now involved in using the latest technology to assemble, organize, share, and analyze information with other government agencies (Schwartz, 2003). Prior to 9/11, the FBI prohibited this sharing of data. The FBI now comprehends the importance of working together to fight against terrorism and the importance of sharing knowledge, which is key to fighting the enemy. Since September 11, technology has been used to classify information and provide it daily to the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security Department (Schwartz, 2003). Challenges of this use of information will be to maintain security for the nation, guard against this information falling into the wrong hands, and guard against violations of constitutional rights.
Security Issues Vs. Constitutional Rights
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) (2003) is an organization that uses litigation to guarantee the rights of those with few protections and access to legal resources. For example, in 2002, the CCR filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of illegal alien detainees; the CCR sought punitive damages and a declaratory judgment stating that these detentions were in violation of customary international law and were unconstitutional. Since the 9/11 attacks, the CCR has remained focused on ensuring that U.S. government security and anti-terrorism measures remain constitutional. The CCR proclaims that these measures have, “seriously undermined civil liberties, the checks and balances that are essential to the structure of our democratic government, and indeed, democracy itself . . . Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the government’s actions has been its attack on the Bill of Rights, the very cornerstone of our American democracy” (CCR, 2003, p. 1).
President, Michael Ratner expressed the views of the CCR in March 2002, stating: “If the U.S. government truly wants its people to be safer and wants terrorist threats to diminish, it must make fundamental changes in its foreign policies … particularly its unqualified support for Israel, and its embargo of Iraq, its bombing of Afghanistan, and its actions in Saudi Arabia. [These] continue to anger people throughout the region, and to fertilize the ground where terrorists of the future will take root.” Ratner condemned post-9/11 war against Afghanistan, suggesting that as an alternative to war, the U.S. should “treat the attacks on September 11 as a crime against humanity, establish a UN tribunal, extradite the suspects, or if that fails, capture them with a UN force, and try them” (CCR, 2003, p. 1).
After 9/11, law-enforcement agencies attempted to conduct voluntary interviews with several thousand Middle Eastern men in the United States on temporary visas. The CCR stated that this was a form of racial profiling. The CCR also stated that the government’s detention of hundreds of non-citizens from the Middle East for possible terrorist connections was also a form of racial profiling. The CCR also proclaims that new regulations’ permitting the FBI, CIA, and INS to share information about possible terrorist plots, assaults the privacy of these people. On January 17, 2006, the CCR filed a lawsuit against President George W. Bush, the head of the National Security Agency (NSA), and the heads of the other major security agencies. The CCR lawsuit challenged NSA’s surveillance of persons within the United States who attempted to communicate with persons abroad when one of the parties was suspected of having connections to terrorism (CCR, 2003).
The Security and Civil Rights Debate
The debate about security and civil rights continues and part of this debate centers around the issue of whether non-citizens of the U.S. should have the same rights as citizens (Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), 2001). According to Kmiec (dean of the Catholic University School of Law), the Constitution does distinguish between citizens and non-citizens, and even more so when national security is a focus. Therefore only citizens’ privileges, rights, and immunities are guarded by the Constitution. The constitutional protection of non-citizens varies according to the context and the Congress and President are able to exclude non-citizens from the country, limit their access to public positions, and scrutinize their behaviors in a manner that would violate the rights and privileges of citizenship if the person were an American citizen. Terrorists or those associated with them can be excluded from the Nation and this does not violate the First Amendment or the Constitution (PBS, 2001).
Alternatively, Lynch (former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York) stated that certain rights are covered under the Bill of Rights and guaranteed by the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights does not distinguish between citizens and non-citizens. This Bill guarantees the rights to all people. In addition, the criminal justice system must treat each person, regardless of citizenship, in an equal manner guarding certain basic rights such as due process. These rights limit the ability of the government to violate the privacy of the individual. According to Lynch, when national security is as stake, it is important to guard the freedoms in the society but this effort must demand that terrorists be apprehended and provided with due process (PBS, 2001).
Romero (executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union) stated further that the constitution guarantees due process protections such as are provided by the First and Fifth Amendment, to any person that lives within the U.S. borders. Thus, while the non-citizen may not have the right to enter the U.S., once they have entered, they have the right to due process. The non-citizen does not have rights such as the right to vote, but Supreme Court findings, they do have fundamental human rights. Within this context, the U.S. must guarantee that even non-citizens are not victimized when faced with national security issues (PBS, 2001).
Specific Privacy Issues
Efforts to control national security are many and some are found in the airports. These measures have the potential to violate the privacy of the individual, enhance profiling, and make life more inconvenient for the American traveler. For example, new airport security rules, since 9/11 includes a ban on cutting instruments (nail clippers, nail files, cigarette lighters, scissors, tweezers, etc.) since the terrorists used small knives and box cutters. Cars must be parked 300 feet from airport gates and there is no longer a curbside check-in.
Inspections of luggage, airplanes, and airports have been increased and there are unidentified armed guards on select flights (Schneier, 2001).
The handling of specific privacy issues has become a focus. For example, the Constitution has been interpreted and findings have been applied to new laws related to privacy. While wire-tapping authority has been granted, a warrant is needed before the government can tap a private phone, just as it is needed to search a private dwelling. Criminal use of the relevant phone and reasons for the tap must be presented to get this warrant. Internet and cable mediums are similar to phone lines when it comes to electronic surveillance. However, despite this precaution, anti-terrorism legislation being considered by Congress would decrease privacy protection since it would lesson the review process to obtain a wiretap. For example, if the tap does not require the conversations to be eavesdropped on, the FBI can circumvent the judicial review of probable cause, a requirement of the Fourth Amendment. In this case the FBI uses its authority regarding surveillance for the purpose of intelligence rather than eavesdropping. The office of Homeland Security has been created and this agency has the power to gather terrorism information from investigations and share the information to others in the intelligence community. The office has the authority to request and review this information and share it with the FBI and CIA. Romero stated that since this information may include facts about law-abiding American citizens, this might violate the rights of this citizen (PBS, 2001).
Summary and Conclusions
There have been multiple efforts to guard national security since the 9/11 attacks. These measures have resulted in debates about whether they violate the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens. According to Romero, laws are needed that guard Americans who are innocent against government surveillance. The government now has the right to spy on good citizens of the U.S. (PBS, 2001).