Civil Liberties Since 9/11

Friday, September 09, 2011


After 9/11, the nation’s focus became national security, which some feared would violate civil liberties like privacy and freedom of expression.  Bob spoke to Chicago University Law School Professor Geoff Stone, author of Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism.  Stone says in the decade since the attacks, the nation's record on civil liberties was not as bad as some had feared.

Comments [10]

gabe from Los Angeles

Interesting listen. There's a very good piece on post 9-11 civil liberties here: You may find it worthwhile.

Dec. 19 2011 03:18 PM
Jim Breckenridge from Brooklyn

@ MrJM

Correction: I was unfair *NOT* to note that Prof. Stone shares credit with other "citizens and media and political officials."

Sep. 13 2011 11:38 AM
Jim Breckenridge from Brooklyn


One won’t always win on every issue but what the issue is, is the most critical question. On that score, I think that the Bush Administration was forced to fight out the legality of its actions in a place that was, in the grand scheme of things, relatively modest, whereas Franklin Roosevelt didn't have to fight about anything he did, until he got to Japanese internment. And even then it wasn’t much pushback.

So I think that the nation behaved extremely well in fulfilling its responsibilities, both the citizens and media and political officials, in pushing back early on, so as to prevent us from getting to a place where real tragedies would have occurred.

I was unfair to note that Prof. Stone shares credit with other "citizens and media and political officials." I think it was fair to assert that Prof. Stone credits pushback by himself and others on "relatively modest" issues with preventing "real tragedies". A more honest, less self-praising Prof. Stone would have simply concluded that nobody, regardless of their position on Gitmo or NSA, wanted a repeat of Roosevelt's internment policy.

Sep. 13 2011 11:35 AM

@Jim Breckenridge from Brooklyn - Can you direct me to the program that you were listening to?

It certainly wasn't the one I was listening to but it sounds like it would have been very interesting.

-- MrJM

Sep. 12 2011 09:49 AM

So secrecy with national security when an open and free society is targeted by a vast worldwide terror network is wrong but "pass the bill so you can find out what is in it" and other secret procedures and accounting deceptions with domestic economic policy while the media defames and derides anyone who disputes that secrecy is perfectly appropriate?

Sep. 11 2011 10:45 AM
Nina Pratt from Rhode Island

Thanks, OTM. Finally someone has reported on a few things we should remember on this anniversary. I'm so sick of the "How sad, we must remember" reporting on NPR.
Remember WHAT? Yes, personal tragedy. But what about civil liberties? In the sacristy before Mass, I was accused by our normally liberal priest of being unpatriotic because I opposed the invasion of Afghanistan. You can bet I straightened him out before we approached the altar!
Let's remember what happened to the press--including the testosterone laced reporting from the front by embedded NPR reporters. Let's remember how dissent was called unpatriotic instead of exercising our rights Let's remember the Patriot (sic) Act, the paranoia about nail clippers and shoes on planes, dragging a Sikh off Amtrak because he wore a turban, two wars that have drained us spiritually, financially, and morally. Let's remember water boarding, Guantanamo, renditions, and the hysteria about the downtown Muslim center. Oh, yeah, lots to remember.

Sep. 11 2011 08:15 AM
Jim Breckenridge from Brooklyn

So Prof. Stone, in effect, takes credit for preventing mass roundups and internment of Muslims by asserting that his civil liberties efforts prevented "the struggle" from getting to that point. A reasonably intelligent conversationalist, let alone professional journalist, would have challenged or at least noted in passing such smug self-praise. The reason Stone gets an unqualified endorsement instead of questions that might let some of the gas out of his bag is because he shares the fundamental purpose of your program: place yourselves (and your listeners) on a higher moral plane that the people you talk about. As long as he does that, you see no need for perspective or context.

Sep. 10 2011 10:57 AM
EVC from B'klyn

In the hours immediately after 9/11, the Bush Administration characterized the attacks as a horrendous crime, but within days, the attacks were being characterized as an act of war. Constitutionally (and politically), if 911 was a understood as a crime, it would NOT trigger the Executive’s constitutional war power; however, if it was officially seen as an act of war, the Executive’s war powers would be triggered. The assertion that the attacks were an act of war is dubious legally in that Al Qaeda is an organization, closer to an international drug cartel than a nation state, but in the immediate aftermath of the attacks few were thinking about the war versus crime distinction or the implications for civil liberties.
Once the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists was enacted on September 18, 2001, the Bush Administration was able assert legal justification for torture, warrantless surveillance, indefinite detention, kidnapping (rendition), the invasion of Iraq, Abu Ghraib, GITMO and a roll back of civil liberties based on a claim of the Executive’s constitutional war power as Commander in Chief.
As long as we are officially in a state of perpetual war with ‘terrorists’, those of us who challenge the ongoing assault on civil liberties in this country and the tenets of international law will not have a solid legal argument because nations at war justify their actions as self defense.
The price paid in lives and treasure by this country and the peoples of many other countries as been immense. If we hope to succeed in challenging the assault on civil liberties, legal protections, international law, and the persistent rise of a national security state, it is necessary to step back, consciously and officially redefine the ‘war’ on Al Qaeda as a prosecution of an international police effort by the US and all countries committed to eradicate an international crime syndicate. In this way we may restore the balance of civil liberty and security.

Sep. 10 2011 10:53 AM
Richard Johnston from Manhattan Upper West Side

About 6 months ago I was told by a uniformed NYPD officer I could not shoot a picture of a MetroCard dispenser in the 103rd Street subway station, because it was "against the law." Asked what was the applicable law, he responded he was not sure, but that was what he had been told, so I had to leave the station.

Sep. 10 2011 08:05 AM
Steven Sellers Lapham from Gaithersburg, MD

I hope you read this one on the air ...
Are NPR reporters and U Chicago Law Professor Geoff Stone unaware that the U.S. tortured to death a dozen (that we know of, thanks to the "foreign" press) human beings in "secret" prisons around the world? Please interview the Guantanamo prison guard who was quoted in Harper's. Interview Canadian citizen Maher Arar, kidnapped at Kennedy Airport and tortured in Syria, gratis the USA. Interview the founder of the Religious Campaign Against Torture (based in Bethesda, USA, I'm proud to state). Obama refuses to prosecute Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld & Co. for their war crimes, thus normalizing torture.
Forget civil rights. Human Rights are now dead in my nation, the United States of America.
Would you please have the integrity to include that point of view in your reporting?

Sep. 10 2011 07:59 AM

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