Are we overdoing safety precautions?
Nov. 18, 2001
The American resolve in Afghanistan should convey a message to the world that this country will not hesitate to react boldly to threats to our security and freedoms. We are one hundred percent behind President Bush and his initiatives to hunt down terrorists and punish nations that harbor them.
Here at home, we must also be vigilant in ensuring that the same freedoms threatened by terrorism are not threatened by our own government's reactions. Our government must ensure that whatever actions are taken to protect airports, for example, do not destroy our freedom to travel.
The government might advantageously put sky marshals back on some flights. It will surely want to make sure that doors between cockpits and passengers are impenetrable and unopened during flights.
But do we really want the FBI monitoring phone conversations between lawyers and their clients? Do we really want federal eavesdroppers to record conversations between husbands and wives and children? Do we really want to create a huge federal bureaucracy to handle what are essential private functions? Once we embark on such a road, can we ever turn back?
If the government wishes to take a broad view of making the nation more secure from terrorists, it ought to realize that terrorists will likely as not try something new if they attack again, anyway. The government should heed those warning that atomic power plants are not sufficiently protected or those who say it is easier than it should be to smuggle explosives across the border.
In the end, officials should grasp that greater security is not the only value in this life and that there is a point where still more layers of it can smother much of what many find most rewarding in the American experience.