Terrorism: Freedom vs. National Security

by K.A.K on February 18, 2015 - 6:20pm

The issue of terrorism has never been more of importance than now, with the recent attacks on the French journal Charlie Hebdo. On January 7th 2015, two Jihadist brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi killed 12 journalists of Charlie Hebdo, an editorial known for its opinion on Islam and terrorism (BBC News). The days following the attack, a hostage taking situation happened in a supermarket. Amedy Coulibaly and his wife Hayat Boumeddiene were the principal actors of the siege (BBC News). With the Kouachi brothers, Coulibaly dead and Boumeddiene escaped the debate on terrorism and freedom is now revived. Could such events been avoided if these people were under constant surveillance or it is immoral to invade the private life of the population?

In the case of terrorism, I believe that some restrictions to freedom and liberties can be tolerated for the sake of national security. The attacks on Charlie Hebdo, the Boston Marathon and 9/11 are all proofs that terrorism cannot be prevented without a set a measures. Terrorism is mainly an internal threat, which requires governments to identify potential terrorists (Robb). Knowing that security is a prerequisite for freedom, a trade-off must be accepted in order to keep the people safe (Robb). To do so, Western governments such as the USA initiated public surveillance measures such as cameras, but also private measures. Mails, social media interaction and phone conversation are recorded by the government (Robb). In addition, people presenting a potential threat are tracked. These measures however, do not apply to the whole population, but only to individuals suspected of having ties with terrorism and Islamic radicalisation. These measures are still minimal, meaning that records are kept, but no preventive action can be taken in regards to freedom. As an example, the Kouachi brothers were known by the French government for having ties with terrorism. They were also known to have been in training camps in Yemen. Despite this information, the massacre had been a total surprise, since further actions towards them would be seen as unethical (BBC News). Thus, I believe that national security comes first when terrorism is involved.

Some may disagree with this principle, claiming that to violate a fundamental right is purely immoral. This argument favors the use of different solutions than those involving interference in people’s privacy. Freedom and liberties are fundamental rights that cannot be revoked by any government, thus the importance of fighting terrorism in a different manner. In addition, these measures often create a climate of fear within the population which encourages terrorism. The feeling of being constantly watched, the lack of private life that such procedures may bring will eventually lead to a loss of trust in the government (The Economist). Another argument against it would be the potential inefficiency of these solutions, given the fact that they did not prevent terrorist attacks. These concerns are indeed justified, however, as I stated earlier, the inefficiency comes from the fact that governments impose themselves a moral limit. Moreover, these fears seem to make reference to the entire population which should not since not everyone will be subject to these measures. Therefore, I do truly believe that further steps in the surveillance of potential terrorists should be taken, even if it means to intrude in their lives to save an entire population.

Works Cited

BBC News. (2015, January 14). Charlie Hebdo attack: Three days of terror. BBC News. Retrieved                                      from http://www.bbc.com/news/

Robb, R. (2013, May 3). On Terrorism, It's Not Freedom vs. Security. Real Clear Politics. Retrieved                                         from http://www.realclearpolitics.com/

The Economist (2012, November 15). Terrorism and freedom. The Economist. Retrieved from                                              http://www.economist.com/




interesting topic, however you could have said that we don't really know how effective the counter measures are in response to terrorism. according to CSIS and the RCMP there a reportetly 3-5 terror acts a year stopped because of these measures. However some attacks get pulled through largely because of the homegrown terrorist mentioned in your article. there is a good article about the U.K's struggle with this issue. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-30166946

I agree with your overall analysis of the relationship between terrorism, freedom and national security. Who would the government and the affiliated agencies monitor? You specifically stated that "Moreover, these fears seem to make reference to the entire population which should not since not everyone will be subject to these measures" (K.A.K.). How would we know who is being monitored? The dilemma is that the government cannot specifically say that they are going to monitor you, so the population at large have no choice but to fear for their privacy and freedom. However, if the government were to specify who they were monitoring, it would clearly become an issue of racism or discrimination. As terrorism is unfortunately associated with Islam, the government would perhaps monitor Islam-related names such as Muhammad, Ahmed, Ali, etc. This would be a clear act of discrimination, as one community is being socially segregated by the rest of society. If this were to hypothetically happen, there would be another problem. There may be people of non-Muslim backgrounds that are potential terrorists, whether it be by Islamic belief or not. If, for example, a person by the name of Jerry Smith were to convert to Islam and takes a radical approach to the religion, the government would not be aware of it. Ultimately, the entire population would need to be tracked, in order to weed out any potential terrorist threat by any person. Though I do believe that this type of security is undoubtedly helpful, it is very difficult to draw a line defining who should be watched, and who should not be watched.

First of all, you chose an excellent topic and developed it very well. I totally agree with you, some liberties and freedom should be restricted when national security is at risk. This principle can easily be understood and explained by an Act Utilitarian, who would argue that the end justifies the mean in all our actions. In this case, if the government needs to violate some people's freedom and liberties in order to stop a possible terrorist attack, then he should be allowed to do so, as it is done for the greater good of the country.

I agree with the fact that some liberties should be restricted to prevent cases of terrorism. Nicolas Henin, a French journalist who was held captive by the Islamic state for 10 months had an interesting interview with BBC (I will put the link at the end). He describes the sort of people who are part of the Islamic State. They are for the most part brainwashed by recruiters through Internet. If, as you suggested, we accorded more importance to our security, a few liberties could be restrained and less people would go in Syria and in Iraq to propagate false ideologies.
Link: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31806085

Firstly, I would like to thank you for writing about this particular subject, which has become increasingly important in the past few years. I liked that you used counter-arguments to support your opinion. You seem to be writing from a utilitarian perspective since you invoke national security and thus emphasize the axiom: “the greatest good for the greatest number.” I would like to show that even a deontological approach could validate anti-terrorist surveillance in France most particularly (the bill was voted today, 438 for and 86 against) (Randoux). Indeed, the article XVII of The French Declaration of Man and of the Citizen from 1789 states: “Property being an inviolable and sacred right, no one can be deprived of private usage, if it is not when the public necessity, legally noted, evidently requires it, and under the condition of a just and prior indemnity” (Wikipedia). Consequently, it is in the public’s interest to be protected against potential terrorist threats. Extreme measures must then be taken in order to fight this underground war that usually passes through Internet communications. Moreover, Article XI also distresses the importance of freedom of expression (as long as it does not harm other individuals) (Wikipedia). However, this liberty is impeded by if journalists, illustrators, or anyone with a writing tool live in constant fear of expressing their opinions or thoughts. As a result, those that criticize anti-terrorist surveillance must understand what is truly at stake and which liberties have greater value: to be able to speak freely or practice one’s religion in peace or to keep one’s privacy while paradoxically posting pictures on social media and indicating one’s whereabouts.

Works Cited

Randoux, Fabrice. “Les députés français adoptent une loi controversée sur le renseignement." La Presse 5 May 2015. Web. 5 May. 2015.

Wikipedia contributors. Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2 May. 2015. Web. 5 May. 2015.

I think you make an interesting point when bringing up the fact that the mass surveillance issue has proven itself to be pretty much useless up to date. For example, with all the data collected, where was the NSA when the Boston Marathon Attack happened? Shouldn’t they have prevented it? Many questions such as these remain unanswered and debatable. The problem with mass surveillance also includes the fact that more and more average people are being investigated and incarcerated, and it seems that this mass surveillance is not serving its purpose to protect the USA from enemy harm, such as terrorism and other threatening countries. From, a utilitarian’s point of view, the government is arguably doing the right thing with this mass surveillance technique, which apparently assures national security and comes at the small price of gathering information about civilians, most of which is harmless and goes unnoticed. In this way, the government sees national security and protection as more valuable than the right to privacy, for it promotes the greatest amount of good for the greatest number, which is the determinant for right and wrong in utilitarianism. All in all, your position is clear, but there are also other possibilities as to whether mass surveillance is right or wrong.

Your topic is very interesting, however your moral perspective seems too contrasted, without too much moral nuance. You have mentioned that the measures taken are minimal, however those taken by the NSA in the USA are not limited to terrorist suspect surveillance. In fact, they have a 3 hop policy, which basically means an extremely large percentage of the American population is under constant surveillance. Thus, is it morally justified to breach American citizens' Constitutional Rights of privacy and freedom? Should a teacher punish their entire classroom because one student has written insults about them on the board? From a teleological point of view, the NSA's actions are still moral. First of all, people will self-censor because they know they have less liberty and privacy, which causes a general sense of suffering in society. Therefore, the absence of suffering in a teleologicl summum bonum will fail. Moreover, although national security is a summum bonum that society aspires for, we cannot predict what the NSA could do with all that information. Therefore, the NSA's measures are simply too risky and unpredictable.

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