Security Versus Civil Liberties Essays Examples

As a constitutional democracy, the United States is based on the rule of law to guide the governments in their practices and safeguard the rights of its citizens. At the same time, the government has the right to protect its citizens from real or perceived harm. Counterterrorism, like terrorism, is the reality facing many nations worldwide, and the countries must protect their citizens from individuals seeking penalties. In the United States, counterterrorism has brought a contentious debate between the need for security of its people versus their civil liberties. This paper examines the argument from each side of the divide based on the interpretation of the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments. First and foremost, the government’s overriding need to combat terrorism outweighs its people’s 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 14th

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Date Added: March 22, 2022

Amendments rights. The chief duty of the government is to protect its citizens from danger, and if doing so will fulfill this mandate, overrides the personal liberties enjoyed by the citizens. For instance, the First Amendment rights protect the freedom of speech which allows the people to express their thoughts ideologies and communicate whatever they want to occur (Department of Justice, 2001). Likewise, terrorists and their supporters use this right to communicate their extremist ideologies, including inciting and conspiracy to commit violence. Such expressions do not enjoy the protection of the constitution. Therefore, when the government decides to arrest, charge and prosecute individuals planning to harm innocent citizens because it is their First Amendment right to speak, it outweighs any protection the Amendment offers (Twomey, 2018).

Also, the Fourth Amendment protects American citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures without warrants by the government (Twomey, 2018). However, when the government suspects that a suspected terrorist is hiding in a particular environment, it becomes incumbent on them to address the situation quickly. At this point, a swift response is needed to guarantee the safety of most people. Therefore, obtaining a search warrant from another district might derail the process and allow the criminal to escape or commit grievous harm to other innocent civilians (Department of Justice, 2001). Thus, the weight to protect law-abiding citizens under the threat of terrorism overrides suspected individual rights to privacy unreasonable search and seizure if such requests conceal possible harm to others.

Besides, even though the constitution’s framers did not envision mass shooting and suicide bombers, the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendment still applies to the terrorists. In the first mention, the 5th and 14th Amendment emphasizes the need to adhere to the Due Process of Law (Doyle, 2002).

It requires that every person suspected to have breached the law is subjected to due process within the criminal justice system. For instance, if the two Amendments (5th and 14th) assert that no state shall deprive any person of the right to life. Likewise, the government does not just shoot randomly any persons suspected to be a terrorist. Instead, when the suspect cooperates with the government to allow arrest, they will be subjected to Due Process, including having the assistance of a counsel. Unfortunately, terrorist suspects are unlikely to cooperate with the government and, in most cases, engage them in fire exchange.

Also, as a genuinely democratic character, states subject every person within their jurisdiction through the same laws on a nondiscriminatory basis. It means that while the States allow every person to exercise their freedom of speech, under the First Amendment, they prohibit every person, no matter the race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or status, who uses such rights to cause harm to other innocent citizens (Twomey, 2018). By the virtue that a suspected terrorist falls within the jurisdiction of the United States, he is going to enjoy the rights envisioned in these Amendments. Equally, such persons will lose these rights if their behavior jeopardizes the rule of law.

Further, the USA PATRIOT ACT, USA FREEDOM Act, or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act did not violate the constitution. It is undeniable that the Patriot Act poses a significant threat to the liberties and values we so cherish. However, its practices do not violate the constitution but expand its applicability to the country’s current challenges. For instance, before the 9/11 attack, a search warrant was obtained from the district where the search or seizure was performed. However, under Patriot Act, officers can get a search warrant from any community that the Act has been committed without worrying about where the execution will occur (Department of Justice, 2001). In this case, the Act does not overthrow the search warrant but reintroduce it to meet the emergency needs when dealing with terror suspects. Equally, even though obtaining personal information on phones and banks invades an individual’s privacy, it is carefully designed to cover the country’s most urgent and highest order, combatting terrorism (Doyle, 2002). The highly technical mechanisms used by terrorists to commit crimes means that the government must also reciprocate by advancing its techniques to meet the current changes in addressing security concerns.

Finally, probable cause should not be waived when conducting terrorism investigation mainly because its risk affects the individual liberties of law-abiding citizens that do not have anything to do with the crime (Kahn, 2017). When probable cause is present, law enforcement reasonably believes in the suspect’s guilt based upon specific information and facts. Moreover, the probable cause gives the police officer the legitimacy that a suspect has carried out criminal activity or poses a significant threat to public security, therefore deserving of warrantless arrest or searches to preserve evidence (Twomey, 2018). In contrast, waiving probable cause will make every citizen, including the law-abiding ones, look like terror suspects, open avenues for massive abuse of constitutional rights, and hinder the long-term fight against terror.

To sum up, the constitution of the United States underscores various Amendments that protect civilians from abuse by the government. The 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments exemplify different protections that every person should enjoy in the country. However, the emergence of terrorism and its manifestation in the 9/11 attack called on the government to take drastic measures to ensure national security for its people are guaranteed. It included the birth of the Patriot Act, which has dramatically changed the interpretation of these rights. I believe these changes are crucial for dealing with 21st-century security threats because only through them can the government protects its people from advanced terrorists.


Department of Justice. (2001). The USA PATRIOT Act: Preserving Life and Liberty.

Doyle, C. (2002, April). The USA PATRIOT Act: a legal analysis. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS


Kahn, J. (2017). The Unreasonable Rise of Reasonable Suspicion: Terrorist Watchlists and Terry v. Ohio. Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J.26, 383.

Twomey, W. (2018, August). A History of Privacy Rights in America: From the Fourth

Amendment to the Patriot Act. In Colloquium: The Political Science Journal of Boston College.

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