Are civil liberties under threat, from our own governments?

9 Jun 2013

The excellent uncovering by Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald has opened many eyes in the international community today. Something is being eroded that should never, ever be remotely touched – human liberty.

The irony that the United States, founded on principles of liberty and freedom, espoused in its most important document- the Constitution, is engaging in such deplorable actions is shocking. Furthermore, that these actions come from Obama. I expected this to come from George W. Bush, who loved to snoop on citizens via the likes of the PATRIOT act and Wiretapping, but Obama? A Democrat from the party of John F. Kennedy and Roosevelt engaging in these actions is shameful. 


What makes these actions much worse is the sheer hypocrisy of Obama. Oddly enough, I think the Republican senator (whom I would normally find myself in disagreement with) Rand Paul said it perfectly in the Guardian:“Senator Obama once showed great concern to safeguard US freedoms. But as president, he rides roughshod over liberty”. In 2007, Obama – a then young senator from Illinois said: "We can give our intelligence and law enforcement community the powers they need to track down and take out terrorists without undermining our commitment to the rule of law, or our basic rights and liberties." I don’t know about you, but I view taking millions of innocent Americans’ phone numbers as undermining a commitment to basic rights and liberties. How can Obama simply turn on his own principles like this? And more importantly – if the National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting these numbers, then where else is being hit? If they are collecting numbers from Verizon, are they getting information from Google? Facebook? Yahoo? It is common knowledge these companies collect private information under the guise of ‘market data’; these could be potential plundering pools for the NSA to protect ‘national security’. 

I believe the NSA case above is a perfect example of the ‘slippery slope’ that happens when the government begins to encroach on civil liberties to add to security. Following 9/11 the Bush Administration engaged in all sorts of heinous actions that bypassed basic liberty to protect ‘national security’. They wire-tapped phones, arrested prisoners without trial and greatly increased surveillance. This was only the start – Obama then increased the number of drone strikes, and allowed them to target and kill U.S Citizens if they are on foreign soil! I hate to use the word as it is rather cliché – but it sounds like the Land of the Free is becoming a diluted Orwellian nation similar to Airstrip One in Nineteen Eighty Four.

But this is only going on in the United States isn’t it! Surely the United Kingdom, with its commitment to democracy and civil liberties, being the signing place of the Magna Carta and the first country to abolish slavery would surely scoff at such possibilities of removing liberty? Well, somehow I think we are we are on the way to becoming like the United States is at the moment – especially if the Snooper’s Charter is to be passed. As I said above, when the government discards civil liberties for security, it becomes a slippery slope, taking more and more liberty for the sake of protecting its citizens. To end this article – I believe the most impactful thought on issues such as this comes from one of the most important champions of Liberty, Benjamin Franklin:“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

By Rory Claydon


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