Among the many famous quotes attributed to Founding Father Benjamin Franklin is one that concludes, “He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security.” It was a quote I used many times in the heated days directly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, as the government’s heated response ratcheted up and gave us things like the Department of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act.
At the time a said “be careful what you wish for,” warning that while you may agree with the expanded abilities of the government to pursue terrorist, what could happen when there is a shift in power and an administration you disagree with takes control of those capabilities.
It is those early, heated days, that is the central focus of Karen J. Greenberg, the director of the Center on National Security at the Fordam University School of Law’s new book Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State. Rogue Justice is a comprehensive, and detailed look at the behind the scenes machinations that were at play as the government was thrust into the process for how to deals with balancing law and battling terrorism.
And that is the crux of the issue; the so-called war on terror is not a war in the traditional sense. There is no centralized battle location; the participants are not from one country and there are no uniforms to identify the players. So for many, including I sense, Greenberg, it is difficult to come to grips that we can’t engage them in a traditional manner. They aren’t soldiers who would fall under the provisions for treatment of the Geneva Conventions, but by the same token they are not criminals who would be afforded traditional legal rights.
It is this new category of existence that so many folks like Greenberg can’t quite come to grips with and they gets worked up, spouting platitudes about how we need to be better than the terrorist and we need to not go back on United States traditions and protections afforded to law breakers. Well I am here to state unequivocally that we already ready are better than the terrorists. While many cry foul over places like Gitmo, why not take a look at the treatment afforded folks there; they receive regular meals to the point of obesity, they get medical care and enjoy religious freedoms. Prisoners captured by terrorists regularly end up as part of video propaganda being beheaded.
While I have issues with how the Patriot Act has been misused to justify spying on U.S. citizens, I don’t fall into the category of folks who lose sleep over how terrorists are treated.