"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
--Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania (1759)
"The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."
--Patrick Henry, Founding Father of the United States
Throughout U.S. history, "national security" has often been used as a pretext for massive violations of individual rights. In the 1940s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans. Today, virtually all Americans recognize the internment as an unjustified action that compromised the fundamental freedoms that make America great.
The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 launched one of the most serious civil liberties crises our nation has ever seen. The Patriot Act and related government actions undercut many important checks and balances on government law enforcement and intelligence powers. The most powerful parts of this sweeping legislation take away restraints on law enforcement and threaten the very rights and freedoms that we are struggling to protect. For example, without a warrant and without probable cause, the FBI now has the power to access your most private medical records, your library records, and your student records and can prevent anyone from telling you it was done, even if it turns out to have no connection with a terrorism investigation.
Additionally, illegal government spying, indefinite detention without charge or trial and government-sponsored torture programs after 9/11 transcended the bounds of law and our most treasured values in the name of national security. There has never been a more urgent need to restore individual freedoms, due process rights and our system of checks and balances. If we allow the interests of national security to take away our freedoms, we surrender what it is to be an American.