American Dilemma: Freedoms or Security   [open pdf - 1MB]

The fundamental U.S. ideals of freedom, justice and respect for human life have endured all major threats during the course of our nation's history. Today our nation faces a different, omnipresent challenge to these ideals - the specter of terrorism. The United States is hampered by its very ideals of freedom in restraining terrorists and preventing potential terrorist acts. Ironically, our nation's vulnerability rests in the potency of our open society and the value we place on traditional civil liberties. Can a law-abiding nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to individual freedoms, effectively protect itself and its citizens against terrorism without infringing on these fundamental principles? The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 was a democratic attempt to do just that: provide a strong new law to combat terrorism while maintaining traditional freedoms. However, law enforcement agencies and the President assert the law is not strong enough. On the other hand, civil libertarians and some Congressional leaders claim legislation of additional governmental powers would sacrifice civil rights. This paper explores the American debate on this controversial law and argues a more 'commonsense' approach to the dilemma would have yielded stronger legislation. Following a brief background and discussion of terrorism, this analysis projects future trends of terrorism to determine if current legislation is sufficient in view of disturbing trends.

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