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Global Terrorism, Domestic Order, and the United States

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4. The Future: Maintaining Order but Losing Freedom?

Order is imposed on a society by restricting freedom.[79] Thomas Hobbes believed that complete obedience to Leviathan's strict laws was a small price to pay for living in a secure society, a principle that some initially used to justify Taliban rule. (Indeed, with the Taliban ousted from the Afghan city of Jalalabad, which was not patrolled by U.N. peacekeepers, reporters said that the city "returned to the thieves."[80] A citizen of Kandahar said, "I'm not missing the Taliban, but security was very good under them."[81]) After the September 11 attack, the United States took extraordinary measures abroad and at home to prevent further terrorism. Some measures merely cost money; others limited freedom

Spending money to prevent terrorism: In mid-November, the U.S. government released its first estimate of the cost of waging war in Afghanistan. The biggest expense--up to then--was $634 million for deploying more than 50,000 members of the armed forces, three carrier battle groups, and more than 400 aircraft into the region. The total cost estimate at that time was over $1 billion per month, and it was expected to rise as the war progressed.[82] Defense against terrorism at home included round-the clock military air patrols over U.S. cities, which cost $324 million.[83] More millions were spent stationing armed reserve troops at all major airports and severely tightening airport security. To coordinate the defense against terrorism at home, President Bush created an entirely new agency, the Office of Homeland Defense, which Congress was preparing to fund in 2002 with over $7 billion, a large part intended to help guard the previously unguarded 5,500 mile border with Canada.[84]

In addition, the attack itself hit the U.S. economy hard. All airports were shut for days after the attack, and many travelers were afraid to fly after they opened. One research institute calculated that the attack caused the loss of 1.8 million jobs across the nation, mainly in restaurants, financial services, and the airline industry.[85] As a result of defense costs and the economic downturn, the government's annual budget--which was expected to show a healthy surplus--would show a deficit of billions of dollars for the year and perhaps a decade afterward.[86] Nevertheless, Congress was preparing to increase substantially the defense allocation in the 2002 budget, providing for new technological hardware.[87]

Curtailing liberties to prevent terrorism: Of greater significance for American society and politics was its citizens' loss of freedom in the form of curtailed civil liberties. United States citizens are justifiably proud of their freedom of expression. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." The Supreme Court (and thus lower courts) have rigorously enforced this provision, which has become close to an "absolute" freedom that can be infringed only under special circumstances. For example, in 1919 the Supreme Court cautioned that "The most stringent protection of freedom of speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater, and causing a panic."[88] By the same reasoning, the Court allowed air travelers to be prosecuted for joking that they had a bomb in their suitcase--even prior to September 11. Since September 11, there is no tolerance within the legal community or among the public for any traveler's reference to knives, guns, or terrorism.

Such restrictions on freedom of speech are understandable and not a major threat to civil liberties. Constitutional scholars and civil libertarians are more worried about the rights of U.S. citizens of Middle Eastern origin. History gives reason for concern. Following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, and the beginning of World War II, the government forcefully transported Japanese-American citizens into "relocation" (concentration) camps during the war. When one Fred Korematsu sought to evade detention, he was arrested, tried, and convicted. When his case was appealed to the Supreme Court during the war, the Court upheld his conviction, saying, ". . . hardships are a part of war, and war is an aggregation of hardships" and holding that "when under conditions of modern warfare our shores are threatened by hostile forces, the power to protect must be commensurate with the threatened danger."[89]

In reaching that decision, the Supreme Court drew on a legacy of historical writings, presidential actions, and court decisions. In 1787, Alexander Hamilton, one of the supporters of the proposed Constitution, wrote in defense of broad central powers during threat to the nation's security: "The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite; and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed.[90] During the Civil War, President Lincoln revoked the constitutional right of habeas corpus, which guarantees a court hearing to anyone imprisoned.[91] Indeed, the Supreme Court has granted wide discretion to presidents in time of war, including authority "to seize and subject to disciplinary measures those enemies who in their attempt to thwart or impede our military effort have violated the law of war," including the use of military tribunals.[92]

On December 4, President Bush announced that he wanted to create military tribunals to try suspected terrorist who are not U.S. citizens. Before a cheering crowd in Florida, he said, "The United States is under attack, and at war, the president needs to have the capacity to protect the national security and interests of the American people." He explained that military tribunals were needed because trials in ordinary courts might compromise national security secrets about how we acquired information.[93] Of course, Bush was not acting without precedent. Nevertheless, within days, more than 300 law professors from across the nation signed a letter charging that the tribunals were "legally deficient, unnecessary and unwise."[94]

Perhaps of greater concern than providing for military tribunals (none of which had been created by mid January 2002) were comments made by Bush's Attorney General, John Ashcroft, defending the administration's efforts to combat terrorism. Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he said, "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorism."[95] Many scholars, journalists, and political leaders were appalled by the Attorney General's remarks, which suggested that people were somehow disloyal if they did not support the administration's approach for combatting terrorism at home.

But average citizens seemed to support the administration. A national poll taken just after the administration announced its plan to create military tribunals to try suspected terrorists, 77 percent of the public thought it a good idea to detain noncitizens "indefinitely if the government thinks the person is though to a threat to national security." And 72 percent thought it a good idea "for the government to listen in on conversation between suspected terrorists in jail and their lawyers." And even 64 percent thought it a good idea "for the president to make changes in the rights usually granted by the Constitution."[96]

How could a public which historically has been proud of its civil liberties respond like that? Democratic Representative Barney Franks, a longtime member of the Judiciary Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, noted that the measures under consideration generally involve noncitizens, so most Americans don't expect their own liberties to suffer. He added:

The rights of people who have done terrible things are hard to defend. You have to keeping pointing out, the question is the process to determine whether they've done the terrible things.[97]

A legacy of the September 11 attack: When war or terrorism affects people's daily lives, they become frightened; they look to government to provide law and order for protection. They become less concerned with justice (i.e., fair and equal treatment of people accused of crimes) and more concerned with preventing harm. Administration of justice involves dealing with the past--with determining what happened and who did it. Prevention of crime involves dealing with the future--with keeping something from happening, not knowing who might do it, or even what "it" is. Consequently, citizens are more likely to give wider latitude to government to provide order. And governments in Europe, as well as the U.S. government, have acted accordingly.

About the same time that President Bush announced his plans to create military tribunals, France expanded its police powers to search private property without warrants, Spain curbed organizations associated with a Basque guerrilla group (E.T.A.), Germany loosened restraints on telephone taps, Britain gave prosecutors the right to detain indefinitely and without trial foreigners suspected of terrorist links, and the European Union formulated a common arrest warrant and a common definition of a terrorist act. Daniel Valliant, France's Interior Minister, said,

The scale of the attacks on the U.S. and the way they were carried out has made us aware that no one is safe from such terrorist acts. We now speak in terms of before and after September 11.[98]

Europe's new concern about preventing terrorist attacks illustrates how globalization has come to function like a broad collective security agreement (e.g., NATO) which regards an attack on one member as an attack on all. In this interpretation, economically advanced nations with global connections might imagine that the September 11 terrorist attack on the United States was, or might be, an attack on them. In this view, the terrorist attack on America was indeed an attack on civilization.

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