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Security or equality: Professor and ACLU president debate the balancing act

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Aishvarya Kavi

What are our rights as American citizens in a post 9/11 society?

Amitai Etzioni, a professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs, and Susan Herman, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, went head-to-head Wednesday night to debate that very issue.

Here are four of the biggest takeaways from the discussion.

1. The Patriot Act

Herman opened up the debate by saying laws like the Patriot Act that were passed after 9/11 allowed the government to wield too much secrecy and expected the American people to trust them blindly.

“The statute does not distinguish between teaching a terrorist to use a bomb or teaching a terrorist to use a harmonica or trying to teach a terrorist not to be a terrorist,” Herman said.

She added that laws which allow searches without a warrant undermined equality in the U.S.

“Minorities pay the price,” she said.

2. Security vs. equality

Etzioni countered by arguing that sacrifices are need for the security.

“People don’t have, first of all, their most basic right protected – the right to be alive,” he said.

Etzioni said his opinions were shared by the majority of Americans following 9/11 and it was worth giving up certain rights to be safe.

“70 percent of the American public said,’Forget the Constitution, give me security,’” he said.

3. Unfair targeting of Muslims

Etzioni said that the majority of Muslims, who were targeted after 9/11, followed the Quran nonviolently. Only a minority did not.

“All of the public opinions that have been written in English from all of the Muslim nations, they show very, very clearly that an overwhelming majority of Muslims abhor violence,” he said. “It’s a minority of Muslims who endorse and embrace that particular interpretation of the Quran.”

Etzioni said only about 1,000 Muslims actually wanted to cause harm to Western populations, as opposed to numbers that are often greatly exaggerated by the media.

4. Online privacy concerns

During a question and answer session, an audience member said younger generations are giving away private information to operations like Facebook and Google, which then process the information secretly. Herman disagreed.

“I think most young people have given up the control of their own data,” Herman said. “I think that most young people…understand that if they post a picture on Facebook…that that can get around but what they don’t want to see happen is that happen without their willing participation.”

She added that there was a large difference between the data collected by governments and the data gathered by companies.

“Last time I checked, Amazon couldn’t arrest anyone,” she said.

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