** The Constitution and 9/11: Recurring Threats to America’s Freedoms. By Louis Fisher; published by the University Press of Kansas, www.kansaspress.ku.edu (Web); 384 pages; $19.95.
Never have security professionals been so challenged in the years since 9-11. Faced with threats ranging from conventional criminal activity to Islamic terrorism, government and private sector security managers must protect lives, property, and operations. They must do so while acting within the law, but some are tempted to stretch their interpretation of what is legal in the name of protection.
In The Constitution and 9/11: Recurring Threats to America’s Freedoms, Louis Fisher examines the Bush Administration’s responses to 9-11, focusing on five principal topics: military tribunals, the Guantanamo Bay detention center, the state secrets privilege, the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, and extraordinary renditions.
He compares the post-9-11 era to others in U.S. history when individual rights and privileges were curtailed in response to serious threats. Reaching back to the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s, he notes the continuing tension between constitutional rights and national security, and the persistent risk of expanded presidential authority that threatens to erode fundamental rights.
Fisher contends that the government’s actions since 9-11 have damaged our constitutional culture and values just as did the Alien and Sedition Acts and the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War. He argues that lip service is paid to morality and transparency while governmental actions are conducted in secrecy. The Constitution, he says, is only as powerful as our willingness to adhere to it and resist interpretations that weaken it in the name of protecting the country.
The Constitution and 9/11 is an academic work, making it a bit tedious at times. Further, Fisher seems to underestimate the strength of the checks and balances that have always managed to reassert themselves throughout our history. The importance of the book’s subject matter, however, outweighs its shortcomings. It would be of interest to any security professional who cares about the delicate historical balance between security and liberty in the United States.
Reviewer: Mayer Nudell, CSC (Certified Security Consultant), is an independent consultant on crisis management, contingency planning, travel security, and related issues. He is an adjunct professor at Webster University and a member of ASIS International.