Charlie Hebdo: The Civil Liberties vs. Security Debate Revisited

By Sal Bommarito

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, it is reasonable to rethink America’s attitude towards civil liberties and security. The Paris event was so dramatic and brazen that many people around the world who have moved left on this issue since the 9/11 attacks may now be amenable to giving up some privacy if it helps to prevent similar inhumanities prospectively.


This subject is extraordinarily sensitive to people in America and around the world. It is a debate that will likely ebb and flow as terrorism increases throughout the world. My initial response to recent terrorist activity is that many western nations have overemphasized civil liberties at the expense of ample security. And, political correctness towards the Muslim community is increasing exponentially the risk of future attacks.


Before the liberals and libertarians jump out of their skin, I should indicate that I am not in favor of torture, but have no problem with aggressive interrogation, especially when innocent lives are at stake. I find it hypocritical that these techniques and the application of capital punishment for crimes against humanity are any different than unleashing drone strikes on “suspected” terrorist enclaves that always seem to involve innocent bystanders.


Also, I am not indicting the entire Islamic world for the deeds of a small group of them. Yet, radical Muslims, some of whom preach their warped brand of religion in the U.S. and other western countries, are allegedly participating in horrific acts.


It is unsettling that very few Muslim leaders publicly condemn acts of violence against innocents. This behavior can only be based upon one of two things: either these leaders are frightened by the more radical elements of their communities, which causes them to be silent, or they implicitly favor violent protest against the west. This being the case, I think that not targeting suspected terrorist activity by clerics is negligent; we can no longer bow to political correctness when it comes to the security of our nation.


During the multi-year debate about privacy, I often wondered why some Americans are so sensitive about surveillance of telephone calls, emails, and tweets, for cause. Daily, Americans initiate billions of the aforementioned. It would be impossible for the authorities to sift through even a small percentage of these communication events. Specific targets based upon probable cause are the only ones investigated. Even morons who document their illegal activities or marital indiscretions on the Internet have little to worry about.


I believe terrorists should be treated differently than criminals. Terrorism is an act that involves inflicting death and/or harm on innocent people by non-Americans or Americans trained by outsiders. Non-citizens and those trained by foreign groups should be subjected to capital punishment for their crimes. Individuals like the surviving Boston Marathon bomber should not have an opportunity to spend the rest of his live in jail; he should be dispensed with quickly. For the record, I have been against capital punishment for many years, but experienced a change of heart after so many terrorist atrocities.


The most sensitive issue is the profiling of Muslims by law enforcement officials. If we assume that a greater and greater amount of violent behavior is being encouraged in Muslim places of worship, it makes sense to observe the actions of suspicious Muslims. America cannot allow any organization or religion to foment violence against its citizens. If the facts show that mosques or temples or churches are places where individuals conspire against America, they should be observed and prosecuted.


The alternative to greater security and surveillance is a greater risk of another 9/11 attack on our homeland. Having lived through that experience first hand, I would strongly recommend the U.S. do everything reasonable to uncover plots to kill innocent Americans.






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