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Civil liberties-really?

Reader comment on item: Monitoring Iraqis Living in the United States

Submitted by Barry Shmookler (United States), Nov 20, 2002 at 18:07

This discussion revisits the debate on civil liberties versus profiling. Profiling, in the context of terror prevention, can be considered as a variation of risk management. This latter concept deals with the prevention of problems and crises by identifying, neutralizing or eliminating known causative events and agents. For example, children are immunized because it is common knowledge that certain infectious agents can be lethal. We also know there is a population of individuals ("causative agents") currently in the U.S. who are determined to wreak lethal havoc within our borders. Their numbers may be relatively small; their terror leverage is overwhelming. We know this because it has already happened. (19 fanatics in American airplanes killed over 3,000 multinational civilians) Finally, we know these particular individuals are young males, many of Arab origin, who are adherents of radicalized fundamentalist Islamist groups. Whether illegal aliens, green card-toting legal immigrants or US citizens, they are united by the common goal of inflicting mass casualties. To date, elderly Chinese grandmothers and 3 year olds in strollers have not made it to the list of most wanted terrorists. This is not a law school debate about the legal implications of entrapment of petty shoplifters or streetwalkers, but rather the imperative to capture and detain individuals, or groups, who are maniacally driven to kill as many Americans as possible. In this setting, profiling trumps the theoretical civil liberties of such individuals. A quote attributed to a famous jurist aptly applies here: "The Constitution is not a suicide pact."
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