A Better Government | Guarding Our Rights
It is clear that the USA Patriot Act and other recent government reforms make it easier for America’s counter-terrorism services to gather intelligence on U.S. Citizens. The extensive NSA domestic surveillance programs have brought the issue of new, secret government powers—to tap phone calls, seize telephone, internet, and financial records—very much to light in recent months. We commend the government’s zealous collection of counterterrorist intelligence from new sources. But we share deep concerns that important safeguards to prevent the abuse of civil liberties are being effectively disregarded.
Professionals in the Administration and our Congressional leaders maintain that these new powers are valuable tools to keep us safe. We must agree. But keeping ourselves safe is not the only priority of a free people. There must be an appropriate balance between liberty and security, with give and take on both sides. The 9/11 Commissioners recommended: “At this time of increased and consolidated government authority, there should be a board within the executive branch to oversee adherence to the guidelines we recommend and the commitment the government makes to defend our civil liberties.”
These pages show how much farther the government needs to go to address this vitally important component of the Commission’s recommendations. We applaud the efforts of Reps. Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) to bring attention to the need for a stong and independent Civil Liberties Board. Defeating Islamist terrorism is the central struggle of our time. But in our willingness to ramp up the tools for this fight, America cannot forget what we are fighting for in the first place: an open and prosperous society reflecting our cherished freedoms—including the freedom from fear itself.