I had forgotten about the following riff until stumbling across it a few days ago.
In late September 2001, Reason magazine asked a handful of folks “to discuss which civil lliberties they thought were most at risk in what has been called America’s first 21st century war.” They published the responses in an article entitled, Guarding the Home Front: Will civil liberties be a casualty in the War on Terrorism?” in their December 2001 issue.
Here was my take a few weeks after 9/11:
Lessons Never Taught Jim Bovard
The blind glorification of government currently prevailing puts almost all liberties at grave risk. Most of the media and most of the poilticians are stampeding behind the notion that the greatest danger is any limit on federal power. The Justice Department wish list of remedies invokes the danger of terrorism to seek sweeping new powers to be used against all classes of alleged criminals.
The determination of some members of the Bush administration to use the terrorist attacks to wage wars against a laundry list of “rogue nations” could mean that aggressive military action continues indefinitely–along with the pretext to suppress Americans’ freedom of speech and movement. And if there is another successful terrorist attack that kills many Americans, the pressure for severe crackdowns will probably be irresistible–regardless of how badly government agencies screwed up in failing to prevent the attack. At least for the time being, people have lost any interest in government’s batting average–either for actually protecting citizens or for abusing power.
The best hope for the survival and defense of liberty is that enough Americans will recall the history lessons that public schools never teach.
Jim Bovard is the author, most recently, of Feeling Your Pain: The Explosion & Abuse of Government Power in the Clinton-Gore Years (St.Martin’s Press).