Discussing the Balance of Security & Privacy

AUSB hosted a provocative discussion about the tradeoffs a society makes to feel safe in an age of terrorism at the Trustee Forum “Seeking a Balance: Homeland Security vs. Personal Privacy” on April 29. The conversation was moderated by journalist and AUSB Trustee Jerry Roberts, and was led by Brian Jenkins and Andrew Liepman, intelligence experts from RAND Corporation, the Santa Monica think tank. Over 80 community members listened attentively as the panelists described the government’s post 9/11 security measures and the potential for civil liberties abuses.

The discussion centered on three key questions: “What is the current terrorist threat to the U.S.?”; “Have National Security Agency anti-terrorism programs worked?”; and “Has the Government overreached?” It was the third question that generated the most heat. The panelists said it is up to the American people to determine how many terrorist attacks or how much risk they are willing to assume in exchange for personal freedoms – that we have to decide for ourselves what is the right balance. Since 9/11, our elected officials have adopted a stance of zero-tolerance for risk, which the panelists felt was both unrealistic and posed a potential threat to our civil liberties.

According to Brian Jenkins, “There is a cumulative effect of the amassing of extraordinary executive and intelligence powers, and Congress seems more intent on sounding tough than questioning those powers. Due to this concentration of might in only a few hands, we could face more of an internal from despotism than an external threat from terrorism. Terrorists want to end the republic. But it is the reaction to the terrorists that could end the republic. The question is how do we deal with this potential for intimidation and control and remain a democracy?”

The presentation ended with the acknowledgement that since Edward Snowden incident, which exposed domestic surveillance problems, the Obama Administration has proposed some reforms to curb the practice. During the Q & A that ensued, audience members voiced concerns about the government’s collection and retention of private citizens’ personal data.

The next Antioch In Conversation community event will take place on Friday, June 27, when respected constitutional law professor and scholar Laurence Tribe discourses on the Roberts Court and its impact on our lives. For further information visit antioch.edu

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