The most common rhetorical argument in this debate is the one in which a terrorist has planted a device which will kill many innocents. The question is then what do you do? What means do you employ to extract the relevant information and then stop the event?
The Economist takes this argument to a ridiculous extension. Their position is as follows;
”Human rights are part of what it means to be civilised. Locking up suspected terrorists—and why not potential murderers, rapists and paedophiles, too?—before they commit crimes would probably make society safer. Dozens of plots may have been foiled and thousands of lives saved as a result of some of the unsavoury practices now being employed in the name of fighting terrorism. Dropping such practices in order to preserve freedom may cost many lives. So be it.”
If the restraint on law enforcement and government causes lives to be lost, so be it. What if it’s your life? Or the life of your family? This argument reflects a naïve grasp of the world as it is. Terrorists do not choose to engage society by its established rules. They see their role as expanding their view, influencing society unlawfully and with great violence.
Civil society is not even in the same stadium. A quick Google of “civil liberties” will reveal more than three million hits. Many are the big operators (ACLU, etc.) some seem big, but are really fronts for niche issues (in Mendocino county the Civil Liberties Monitoring Project works diligently to preserve the consumption of medical marijuana.) I am sure they would quickly stand up to defend the rights of dirty bomb carrying Islamofascist operative number seven, once their precious crop was in danger.
In the same article in which the Economist would allocate civilians to summary execution in order to preserve “civil liberties” they cite a litany, okay so it’s only a paragraph, of lost rights;
“The past six years have seen a steady erosion of civil liberties even in countries that regard themselves as liberty's champions. Arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention without trial, "rendition," suspension of habeas corpus, even torture -- who would have thought such things possible?”
And yet – where are these issues? Where is the long list of legal warriors funded by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the ACLU? In short – they do not exist. Or if they exist, they operate under the aegis of law. Once the cases of individuals in Guantanamo, for example, were reviewed, the courts concurred that detention was justified and legal.
If it were not for a vigilant video clerk in New Jersey, many soldiers and civilians at Fort Dix would be dead from terrorist bullets. Hardly a violation of rights.