The Serious Threat of Terroristic Attacks Here?

[As a child of WW2 — that now distant event — I read the following in-depth reports on things including national security which in those days included the slogan, “Loose lips sink ships.” I was particularly connected here because one of my uncles with a back too injured to be accepted by our military, joined the Merchant Marine effort to get supplies and equipment overseas in the face of the threats of the Nazi submarine wolf packs lurking along the route. He had at least one near miss. A group of philosophers at the time actually figured that our social pages announcing weddings and engagements of soldiers heading overseas was a security breach alerting spies to the departure dates of our convoys.

In light of the restrictions placed on our normal civil liberties in those days as well as terrible injustices (the incarceration of our West Coast Japanese American citizens), we are currently faced with balancing security and Constitutional rights once again. Certainly torture is out, but what limits should we place on national spying to discover pending terrorist attacks? I am not expert in this area, but I can figure enough to know that we are not living in the world of civil liberties as usual. Some new balance may need to be struck. I imagine that this is what the Senate was facing with the recent security vote. I don’t see any blacks and whites there but rather judgments that can legitimately be at odds as to where the lines should be drawn. I don’t have much confidence in the Bush administration here — our ports are wide open. I expect the worst down the line unless we can once again persuade the world at large that we are not a new version of Nazis lite.

We shall see. What do you  think? Frank Rich’s column touches on some of these issues. Ed Kent]

The Real-Life ’24’ of Summer 2008
Are we safe? As Al Qaeda and the Taliban surge this summer, that single question is even more urgent than the moral and
legal issues attending torture.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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