Thirty years after Benjamin Franklin wrote: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety, Thomas Paine wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson explaining his view of natural and civil rights.
According to Paine, if twenty persons, all strangers to each other, found themselves in a previously uninhabited country, each individual’s will was his natural right. He had the freedom and liberty to do as he pleased, even invading the sovereignty of his neighbours. It would then occur to each sovereign individual that if he united with his neighbour for mutual protection he would increase his personal security. But to do that he would have to sacrifice certain degrees of his natural rights. The compromising of individual rights resulted in rights of “compact” or as our legislative laws were defined as “civil rights”.
Paine then reasoned that in Natural Rights we act wholly in our own person; in rights of compact or “Civil Rights” we agree not to do so, but act under the guarantee of society. It would then necessarily be argued that the more of the natural rights one surrendered, the more security one would possess.
In George Orwell’s prophetic 1984 the fictional country, Oceana, was under siege by internal and external powers threatening the security of the country. The people voluntarily surrendered their rights including the rights of movement and privacy in exchange for the protection afforded by the government – “Big Brother”
In 1936, physicist Max Planck wrote “An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by winning over and converting its opponents. What happens is that its opponents gradually die out and that growing generation is familiarised with the idea from the beginning.”
In the twenty first century we are under siege by internal and external powers threatening the security of our country. We rush to embrace technology, video monitoring, and government intervention in the name of security. We voluntarily surrender rights for more security. Children at preschool are monitored by their mothers via internet video; streets, intersections, shopping malls, banks, post offices are “secured” by cameras. Technology has made it possible to track a person from conception to death. The generations born after the last twenty years think it is perfectly natural to be videoed all day, everyday. Accordingly it is becoming normal for police and soldiers to patrol our airports and to stop and question, perhaps arrest, someone “on mere suspicion”, or because the police happen to not like the persons color, dress, or birthplace. Will it become “normal” for those arrested to be tried in a secret tribunal, disregarding the Bill of Rights?
Fifty years ago, soldiers did not patrol airports in Europe, except in Spain, under the dictatorship of Generalismo Francisco Franco. Yet now is it not only accepted; it is the model for the rest of the world.
No one votes against security measures. Probably not even argue against them. All this security means one thing – crooks, criminals, crazies and terrorists have won! I like to think not. But I have told my children to remember what it was like before all the cameras and restrictions, because their own children will only know monitoring, personal identification tracking numbers, techno-physical confinement, loss of privacy and freedom of movement. Perhaps children will be induced to inform on parents, neighbor against neighbor, etc. (There is precedent).
The argument is made that once terrorism is eradicated, things will go back to normal. No chance! Terrorism will never be eradicated. It has always been here in one form or the next. It may go dormant for a few years, but it will recycle in a generation or two.
In the late 11th century, Muslim separatist Hasan ibn al-Sabbah, operated a terrorist training camp north of today’s Tehran. Terrorist activity (including assassination, kidnapping, bombing, lynching and hanging) has come down through the centuries. In the 1970’s terrorism was a real “hot button” subject- Skyjackings, planes blown up, kidnappings, bombs thrown into crowded market places, etc. The big names in those days were “Abul Nadal”, “Black September”, “The Jackal”, etc. Today it is Al Queda, ISIS, Boko Haram, Neo-Nazis, Right-Wing radical nationalistic militias, and others who have there own selfish beliefs about religion and racisim. Who will it be in twenty years?
Yes, I sound like an alarmist. But, each year I see further erosion of the liberties and freedoms I took for granted. I support the fight against fear and terrorism but I am also a realist. Will we will win this current war. There is lots of doubt. Will freedom and security return to pre-modern alert status? Unlikely. Once a freedom is gone, it remains gone. Decisions are made in favor of security because without security there can be no freedom. But there can be security without freedom. It is possible to surrender one hundred percent of freedom but it is impossible to reach one hundred percent security.
There will always be those who will use any method, no matter how heinous, to foist their beliefs upon an unprepared public. Therefore,our security demands that once a security procedure, method, or operation is in place it will always remain so. We will never again have equal shares of freedom and security. It has become one or the other, not both.
Freedom or Security?
By: Dale L. June
Dale June is a former U.S. Secret Service Agent assigned to the Presidential Protective Division at the White House plus serving in the Sacramento and San Diego field Offices and holds a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice is from George Washington University. He currently teaches at National University, Los Angeles and is the author/co-author of nine books about protection and Homeland Security/Terrorism.