From issues like Ebola to the Islamic State to potential war with Russia, the world is being flooded by major crises that hinge on “tough decisions” being made. Unfortunately, policies like preemptive quarantines of potential Ebola carriers and terrorist threats often leave Americans choosing between their civil liberties and their wellbeing.
Following the September 11th terrorist attacks, the US started down a slippery slope in favor of national security, which resulted in a near total disregard for civil liberties by American national security apparatus. Instead of balancing national security interests with the need for civil liberties, America’s national security apparatus, the NSA and CIA in particular, decided to find ways to circumvent civil liberties.
As the world learns more and more about the misconduct of what should be the most trustworthy people with any government, only thanks to the ongoing revelations of Edward Snowden, and faces an overwhelming number of security threats, tough decisions will have to be made to both protect the American People and their freedoms.
Furthermore, recent findings that British intelligence services chose to rely on databases filled by America’s massive surveillance programs in order to circumvent laws designed to protect the rights of British citizens demonstrates the civil liberties of individuals around the world are under threat by those solely concerned with national security interests.
Unfortunately, poll data also reveals more Americans are still willing to sacrifice the freedoms of their fellow Americans policies in order to combat the spread of a disease like Ebola, even if doing is counterproductive according to expert opinion and violates someone’s civil liberties.
The most troubling aspect about such public sentiment is the lack of value Americans appear to place on their freedoms, especially when it comes to maintaining those freedoms over the long haul as the world makes its way through an era of crisis.
Because it is almost always easier to ignore the need to respect someone’s rights and pursue the most obvious reaction to a crisis, the instinct of Americans to sacrifice civil liberties without any clear benefits means authorities are free of the social and political pressure needed to force them to address national security and public health threats in a balanced manner.
Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai recently told President Obama the US should stop arming the world. Although it is true groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have been empowered by US arms, failing to arm those who would protect the weak leaves the world at the mercy of those who would seek only dominance and destruction, which is evident in Syria.
Consequently, arms need to find their way into the hands of those who will strive for peace, stability, and freedom while it is true that arming the world will not change it for the better. It is fighting for those who cannot.
For police, emerging technology that can track when and where an officer’s gun has been fired suggests a potential solution that is balanced. Given the shrinking size of technology and its ever-improving performance, it is very easy to see such technology being permanently incorporated into arms offered to security forces like the Iraqi military or the Free Syrian Army.
Doing so, would help both discourage insurgents from acquiring US arms and using those arms while guarding against corruption within foreign security forces that cannot be entirely trusted. More importantly, it can do far more to stop a known terrorist from killing than massive surveillance programs with highly questionable results will ever.
Critics of the development of this technology do rightly raise privacy concerns as well as Second Amendment questions that are rooted in the potential for government to abuse the technology. This is, of course, why clear and concise policies need to be established for the use of any technologies that track human behavior, including a guarantee private citizens would never be forced to use such devices.
Although there is a potential threat to the lives of US troops and police officers if these weapons were ever hacked, the threat to foreign recipients of American weapons would be far less pressing than the benefit to those security forces and the US.
Instead of developing technology and using resources to circumvent civil liberties, US national security officials need to focus more on finding solutions that can help reduce threats to the American People in a far more balanced way. In many respects, the Islamic State is a ripple effect of ill-conceived foreign policies and national security efforts. Finding solutions that balance interests is the key to effectively addressing known national security threats without creating massive ripple effects that result in even greater threats down the road.
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