Freedom vs. Security: A Tough Choice

By: Roger Sheppard
By: Roger Sheppard

Trade-offs may have to be made if we want to maintain freedoms while we also guard against terrorists

"Those who would sacrifice freedom for security, deserve neither." That quote from Benjamin Franklin is getting a lot of traction, since the news came out that the National Security Agency has been monitoring phone records in an effort to prevent terrorist activities. There's some debate as to what Franklin truly meant when he said this more than 200 years ago. But the question is: Should this kind of monitoring - or any kind of monitoring - be permitted, in an effort to prevent violence? If you had a family member killed due to a terrorist act, and that death could have been prevented if someone had been doing this kind of monitoring, wouldn't you have wanted it done? Sure you would. But how far are we willing to sacrifice freedom for safety? There are millions of security cameras in place all around the U.S., capturing images of innocent people going about their daily business. Occasionally, one of these cameras catches someone committing a crime or, as in the case of the Boston Marathon bombing, placing bombs that kill or maim people. Most of us were happy when the video images that were captured in Boston led to the identification of the two alleged bombers, one of whom was subsequently killed and the other injured. With facial recognition software and the digital footprint that we each leave behind as we surf the internet, make purchases on-line, buy things with credit cards, and everything else, you can track a person's activities almost minute-by-minute. If you're not doing anything illegal, what's the big deal? Here's the big deal. What if someone like the IRS begins accessing this data to track the activities of people who disagree with government policy, as it is alleged to have done during the Presidential election year of 2012, with conservative groups seeking special tax status? It doesn't take much of a leap to realize that data, in the wrong hands - and sometimes that's the government's hands -- can be used to track and harass people. We must all realize that to preserve our individual freedoms, we may to accept a world that is a little less safe, and understand that individual danger is an unfortunate but unavoidable part of the price of freedom. That's this week's editorial.
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