Civil liberties are the fundamental rights and freedoms that give a person a specific right. Examples of these rights and freedom include; freedom from torture, right to security and liberty, right to a fair trial, right to privacy, freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembling, right to life, right to defend oneself and others. Many countries and states have constitutions which guarantee these civil liberties and it is states’ sovereign duty to protect them as well as individuals doing so. Thus, America ought to abide by what it is in the constitution and protect these civil liberties even if in crisis. This is due to the fact that American leaders have always redefined their powers in moments of war and crisis and in acting so; they have revoked, suspended and ignored individuals’ rights.
Civil liberty allows for the civilians to engage in social and political activities and arenas. This is for them to contribute to socio-political change and progress in the country. In suspending civil liberties, it means that for people to be secured, they must accept what the government is doing and the fact that they cannot change any thing. Civil liberty and security is for public good and in cases of crisis government suspend them for the common good without taking into consideration individual’s rights and freedom. This means a balance must be struck between security and individuals rights even if governments take a utilitarian approach while responding to this crisis. (Bagga 2005)
Suspension of civil liberties is one form of emergency powers executed by the government when its abilities to counteract the crisis are insufficient. Fredrick Watkins states in his analysis that the constitutional system poses a danger since it proves its incompatibility with the effective actions in periods of exceptional difficulties. This also poses a threat to the individual rights which are considered the fundamental rights of each citizen. The wars that are internally and exceptional regimes of change require that civil liberties have to be changed. The problem with this is that the protection of human rights and freedom, as defined in the international laws and treaties, always succumbs to the law of terrorism and war and to the vital rights of all countries to preserve their own existence and their sovereignty. In as much as the state wants to maintain its existence, civil liberties should not be compromised.
During moments of crisis people may lose their lives by being killed in protests, riots and demonstrations. They may lose their freedoms and their way of live may be altered. In the US, its government has continually taken security to be at par with freedom. The social value that has been attributed to civil liberties has been neglected, and this has violated basic human rights. In the US, the historical events and the past errors that have been made are used to anticipate what is likely to happen next and how security can be enhanced if any war or terror.
Conflict between the southern and the northen states
Like in the conflict of the 19th century, that was between the southern states and the northern states. The northern union was victorious since it was the president’s territory while the southern were rebellious against them. In this crisis, there was suspension of the law to safeguard the northern ideologies leaving the southern for the sake of their security. This challenged the state authority for the cases of detention and imprisonment of people who hold demonstrations against the president’s ruling. The common law, ‘the privilege of the writ of habeaus corpus shall not be suspended unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it’ which is under article 1, section 9, clause 2 of the US constitution gained its significance since it was the only common law referenced in the constitution. (Nowian 2006)
As chaos continued to occur in the form of riots and other local military actions, there was a need to suspend the above law for the sake of social peace to prevail, and military actions and operations to be protected and to cease. The ruling president took suspended the law without informing the congress about his decision. This therefore, show many people who participated or who opposed his political ideologies being imprisoned and jailed. The US government should not therefore suspend civil liberties for the sake of peace because it is unethical since it means that those supporting the president are the ones who want to benefit alone leaving out those opposing the same.
In this conflict, it was believed that the rebellious group was using the writ of habaeus corpus, freedom of expression and liberty of press so as to attack those in favor of the president. For this group, the freedom of speech was not tolerated and government agencies controlled what was to be in the press to stop controversial issues being displayed to the public to avoid further confrontations and civil unrest. On the other hand military officers were required to suspend the law or abide by. In conjunction to this, members of the legislative group were not allowed to assemble, and talk on crucial matters as it would lead to unrest and their main aim was to protect the union’s interests without considering what the southern had in mind.
The suspension of the law by the president was not ethical, and it should not be exercised at the expense of individual rights guaranteed in the bill of rights. In most cases, the government would want to satisfy its political ideas and opinions thus neglecting the fact that powered should be at equilibrium in moments of crisis. This therefore, calls for the American government not to suspend this during times of crisis since human rights are normally violated in as much as trying to provide security and safety to the citizen. It is down to the people that when there is a crisis they should help themselves as stated in the New York magazine special issue that people should help themselves. This greatly highlights to us that we should be independent and that when civil liberties are suspended there is no social justice since the governing laws and rules are meant to protect individuals’ rights. (New York magazine pg. 33)
Secondly, as a leader he or she is required to stress respect for persons but when the laws pertaining human rights are violated to suit political agendas at the expense of the population is no good. This is due to the fact that the law was created by the people for the people. Thus, there should be proper execution of laws without favoring any side incase of conflict. From these civil liberties should not be suspended since it safeguards individuals’ rights and freedom as they are contained in the constitutions. If suspended within a particular period people opposing the move suffers a lot. This means that civil liberties have to be adhered to for citizens to enjoy their rights and also for them to gain momentum in bringing change where it is deemed possible. The underlying reason for this is that there are tyrants who want to dictate everything to citizens.
For the government to stop suspending these civil liberties there is need to develop mechanisms that can be used in curbing crimes and terrorism. For instance, there is the development of total information awareness system which allows a large amount of person information to be gathered for those living in America and its citizen. This may include medical records, credit cards, passports, and records of postal payments and so many others that are vital in tracing a suspect or a criminal. This has been widely supported by the law. (Loveman 1999)
There are also other ways like the use of carnivore which is tool that allows the FBI to go through emails, and look for web searches and activities deemed suspicious. The use of this patriot law limits the citizen’s grievance against abuse and their right to know what is happening. This therefore, is a way of violating an individual’s rights in as much as trying to provide security and safety to their population as it enables the government to spy on its citizen and also those residing in the country.
The government has a lot time in carrying out terrorism surveillance since terrorist groups may be poorly trained and poorly organized to some extent. Thus, during this moment the government through effective measures can curb them and necessary action can be taken this would in turn protect the citizens’ rights and freedom as it is the duty of the state to protect its citizens.
On the other hand, civil liberties should be suspended because the state wants to protect or safeguard its territory. There are cases where the American government monitors peoples’ daily financial transactions meaning that there is no privacy and in as much as they are looking for criminals and suspects, this is exemplified by the September 11 terror attacks in the USA, which has made the government to be so vigilant to extreme of violating human rights. These attacks show the society to remain intact so as to create order and prevent further terror attacks.
In terrorism, the American government normally targets individuals of the Arab origin and those of the Muslim faith. This proves that this is against individual’s rights and freedom of religion. This is also a way of discriminating against those of the Muslim faith of which not only the Muslims are terror suspects. This also exhibits that there is a violation of freedom of religion and speech which vital components of the democratic society. This led to the violation of the 1st amendments made on the right to freedom of speech according to the US constitution. Another example is that of those terror suspects held in Guatanamo bay in Cuba. Their rights have been violated to the extent that others have been detained for long without any reason to prove that they are criminals while others have not even gained access to lawyers who can represent them during trials or even officials to consult.
The pearl attacks in the American harbor made the US government to evacuate the Japanese Americans who were living there. This was as a result of Japanese government who was carrying out attacks. This was heightened by the fact that the Japanese Americans could collaborate with them in undertaking further attacks. Thus, the US government saw the need to evacuate them to stop the place from being a breeding ground. The exercise was motivated by racism and the need to protect the citizens of American origin leaving out the Japanese Americans. (Freedman 2003)
This was a violation of citizen’s rights since only the Americans were considered and the Japanese were evacuated from their places of living. This meant that the Japanese way of living was disrupted and they had no freedom of speech since there were those who tried to resist the exercise but nothing was fruitful. It is therefore, unethical for the American government to implement policies and measures that are geared towards curbing terrorism and crime but are against and detrimental to human rights.
In conclusion, there should be no suspension of civil liberties even if the state is pursuing of security and safety of its citizen. This is due to the fact that most of the people involved in civil unrest receive unjust treatments. The technological measures geared at reducing or combating crime have not been effective since they forming major ways in which human rights are violated. There also the need for the law enforcing agencies to take into consideration the ethical aspect of law without compromising on individuals rights.