Need for Protection from Terrorism

Discussion: Weighing Costs, Benefits in the Right to Freedom and Privacy versus the Need for Protection from Terrorism


Reducing terrorism is not an easy feat. Methods to identify and manage potential terrorism tend to fall along a continuum from the general to the specific. General measures are those in which many people are affected, such as screening of large numbers of people and their belongings to detect plans or material related to terrorism. This typically takes place at airports, train stations, and immigration/customs services. Similarly, the U.S. government has accessed all cell phone records. More specific methods to identify and manage potential terrorism have included monitoring “chatter” that consists of communication among possible terrorists. Forms of profiling have also been conducted to examine personal and ecological aspects of potential terrorist suspects or terrorist-prone regions. In very specific cases, relevant terrorist-related data are gathered based on interviews with known or suspected terrorists.

Some of the methods to reduce terrorism might infringe upon citizens’ civil rights to freedom and privacy. In the United States, the following constitutional amendments are some of the specific civil rights afforded citizens that may conflict with methods to reduce terrorism:

Amendment I, Free speech and freedom of religion: Does the government have the right to stockpile and monitor cellphone, internet, or other forms of communication among its citizens? Can people of a certain religion be forced to give up their religion or face strict government control?

Amendment IV, Freedom from unreasonable searches or seizure of property by legal authorities: Can the government search or confiscate property without due process?

Amendment V, Due process that consists of having a predictable form of justice in which citizens are formally accused of potential crimes through specified legal procedures that allow them to view evidence against them and argue against the charges: Can certain people have their activities and whereabouts monitored and recorded without due process?

Amendment XIV, Rights of U.S. citizens are further defined and include due process and rights not to be deprived of “life, liberty, property” without due cause: Can citizens be questioned or detained by legal authorities without due cause? (U.S. Senate, n.d.)

Citizens around the world in developed countries tend to be guaranteed many similar rights by their own country’s constitution. Many governments have patterned their own constitutions after the U.S. Constitution, which was developed in the 1700s based on practices in Great Britain and France at that time (National Archives, n.d.). Arguably, places without constitutional guarantee of rights likely have “human rights,” which require that people be treated with decency and respect.

Terrorism has been recognized as a significant global problem that needs to be reduced. In doing so, does the government or other legal officials have the right to potentially infringe upon citizen’s civil liberties and rights?

In this Discussion, you will review scholarly evidence and argue one side of the argument below based on the evidence:

  • Some infringement of civil or human rights is necessary in order to detect and reduce terrorism, and reducing terrorism is worth the cost of infringement; or
  • Infringement of civil or human rights is not worth the cost, and measures taken to detect and reduce terrorism must follow laws and customs that protect civil or human rights.

Note: If you are an international student, you may base your Discussion on your local or regional Constitution and relevant legislation, policies, or case law.

To prepare:

  • Review the Learning Resources, especially legal decisions designed to detect and prevent terrorism.
  • Consider your empathy-bias regarding whether the potential costs of restricting freedom and privacy are worth the benefits of combating terrorism.
  • Take a side: the costs to personal freedom and privacy are worth the benefits or the costs are not worth the benefits of combating terrorism.
  • Gather scholarly literature, which may include Learning Resources to support your viewpoint.

Justify and explain your position concerning how the costs to personal freedom and privacy are worth the benefits of reducing terrorism, or how these costs are not worth the benefits of combating terrorism.

  • Explain how your viewpoint may affect the type of job that you will consider as a forensic psychology professional.

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