THE MAGAZINE

Civil Liberties vs. National Security in a Post-9/11 World

By Richard Parry, CPP, CISM

***** Civil Liberties vs. National Security in a Post-9/11 World. Edited by M. Katherine B. Darmer, Robert M. Baird, and Stuart E. Rosenbaum; published by Prometheus Books, www.prometheusbooks.com (Web); 387 pages; $21.

Debate, in its purest sense, is a dying art. Our technology-laden culture encourages the rapid-fire exchange of retorts and bons mots. There is precious little time allotted for educated, contemplative, and articulate discussion. As security professionals, while we must deal with the fast pace of the workplace, we should covet opportunities to research and discuss matters of overarching social significance and interest. What topic of debate could be more timely and worthy of attention than that of civil liberties versus national security and defense?

M. Katherine Darmer, primary editor of Civil Liberties vs. National Security in a Post-9/11 World, together with Robert M. Baird and Stuart E. Rosenbaum, has served up a uniquely balanced look at the obligation society has to protect its citizens while preserving their rights. Drawing on the work of legal experts as diverse as Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Harvard attorney Alan Dershowitz, as well as academics and experts from other fields of inquiry, the book offers the opportunity for the reader to challenge his or her own beliefs on the proper balance between the two issues.

The book has six parts, with writings ranging from the historical to the latest in current thought. A discussion of civil liberties during wartime leads off the book. Selections from the U.S. Constitution and a federal habeas corpus statute round out the first chapter and provide a legal context for the subject.

Three highly charged, emotional issues come next: domestic surveillance, racial profiling, and the use of torture in interrogating suspects. These chapters offer an unbridled exchange of vociferous, bracing views. Lessons from our past, such as Japanese internment camps and the tragedy of 9-11, are invoked and marshaled by the writers. Do these examples represent the “slippery slope” toward tyranny of surrendering personal rights or a reasoned approach to protecting the many at the expense of a few? The question remains open, but readers will be much better informed after reading persuasive arguments on both sides.

The work concludes with writings devoted to the current war on terror, including the legality of the detentions at Guantanamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Security professionals need balanced, thoughtful books like these because they keep us focused on the bigger picture. The book compels us to understand that the lessons of today will be judged dispassionately by the leaders of tomorrow. It also forces us to admit that no single approach is completely right or wrong, as we do our part in this 230-year mission to protect our nation.


Richard Parry, CPP, CISM (Certified Information Security Manager), is director of safety and security for Iron Mountain, Inc., in Boston. He is a member of ASIS International.

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