by Gel Santos Relos from "Asian Journal" [http://asianjournal.com/editorial/will-you-sacrifice-some-personal-liberties-for-the-sake-of-national-security]:
Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos
THE Boston Marathon bombings have somehow revealed a dichotomy in most Americans’ (including Fil-Ams) state of mind: What do we really value more? Our full enjoyment of our freedom and liberties or our national security?
As the Associated Press reported, Republican lawmakers question whether the Obama administration’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies failed to share crucial counterterrorism information.
The question zeroes in on whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were working closely about information they have on 26-year old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in an escape attempt a few days after the bombings.
The Russian government had tipped off the FBI and the CIA about Tamerlan’s possible links to radical extremists/ Jihadist groups in 2011. His brother, Dzokhar (another bombing suspect) is in custody.
The FBI was able to interview Tamerlan Tsarnaev, but investigations showed no information was found to indicate that Tamerlan had any connection to known extremist or terrorist groups.
There was also no proof of any imminent threat for a prescribed period of time.
As CBS News explained, under FBI DIOG and US Attorney General guidelines: there are strict prohibitions about running open-ended investigations into American citizens, or those legally in the United States, in the absence of a clear indicator of criminal activity or association with terrorism.
Yet many people, even among our kababayans, said the Obama administration’s intelligence agencies should have been more vigilant in their investigation of Tamerlan.
In the online opinion poll of The Filipino Channel’s daily newscast Balitang America, a majority (58 percent) of those who voted believe that the Boston Marathon tragedy could have been avoided.
Some wondered why the government did not continue to monitor Tamerlan’s actions more closely if the FBI had already been tipped by Russia about his probable radical leanings since 2011.
Because the Tsarnaev brothers were of Islamic faith, Republican Rep. Peter King even went further, asking the FBI to focus on threats from within the Muslim community.
Rep. King said on CNN: “Most Muslims are outstanding people, but the threat is coming from the Muslim community… We must ask the question only Muslims can answer. What is going on in your community that a critical number of your youth believes every American military action in the Middle East justifies a violent response? It’s coming from the community.”
But Democratic Representative Keith Ellison disagreed with King. He said while he recognizes the need for public safety, he sees it as “ineffective law enforcement to go after a particular community.”
“Once you start saying we’re going to dragnet or surveil a community, what you do is you ignore dangerous threats that are not in that community and you go after people who don’t have anything to do with it,” Ellison said.
When we asked our Balitang America viewers the question: “Do you agree with a Republican lawmaker’s proposal to ramp up surveillance of Muslim communities to prevent another attack?” Most of those who voted (92 percent) said YES.
One viewer named Delia even passionately argued,: “Why are we so worried about profiling? The safety of AMERICANS far outweighs the risk of ‘insult’ to a group whose religion advocates and actually KILLS AMERICANS.”
After the Boston Marathon attack, we heard Republican senators, Lindsey Graham and John McCain (among others) criticize the way the Obama administration has given Dzhokhar Tsarnaev too much liberty and rights, as an accused. They argued that investigation and treatment of Tsarnaev should have been handled in a way that many think would be a violation of his civil rights as an American citizen.
Yet, despite expectations from government to be more vigilant in investigating people (who are suspected of being part of extremist groups; or who belong to the same religion at least) the latest CNN/Time/ORC poll reveals that 49 percent of Americans are NOT willing to give up their civil liberties in order curb terrorism. Only 40 percent are willing to give them up for national security.
In fact, the same study finds that 61 percent of Americans are more fearful that the government will overreact to the Boston bombing, compared to 31 percent who are worried that the government won’t act strongly enough.
The Guardian’s Harry Enten rightly pointed out that the reaction to Boston has been monumentally different compared to the polling results after 9/11.
Immediately following the attacks on the World Trade Center, 66 percent of Americans were willing to sacrifice their “civil liberties” to stop terrorism — 26 percent higher than today.
Enten also wrote that Democrats at large are now more willing to give up personal freedoms than Republicans.
In the CNN/Time/ORC survey, 51 percent of Democrats were willing to give up some civil liberties to curb terrorism, while only 41 percent of Republicans did.
The same trend, he said, was also reported by polls made by Fox News and Washington Post.
“Republicans, it seems, have become the standard-bearers of civil liberties due to two factors: who’s in the White House and shifting currents inside each party,” Enten theorized.
“Second, the Republican party is increasingly becoming the party of Rand Paul and civil libertarians,” he added.
Expounding on the role politics play in this issue, Enten explained: “This puts hawkish Republicans like Graham and McCain in an awkward position within their own party. If there were a Republican in the White House, I think more Republicans would be willing to sacrifice civil liberties to prevent terrorism. At the same time, though, the Republican party simply is in a different place than it was a decade ago.”
However, our kababayans in America have remained hawkish on this issue. When we asked on Balitang America, “Would you give up some of your personal freedoms to fight terrorism?” A big majority of those who voted (83 percent) said YES.