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Protecting America Starts with Protecting Our Civil Liberties

J. Bradley Jansen
September 14, 2001

Jansen insists the war against the terrorists must not backslide into a war against the civil liberties and constitutional freedom that are the basis upon which this country was founded and has been governed by since then. Shock is giving way to a rightful desire for vengeance against the terrorists who perpetrated the acts of war against the United States.

But privacy advocates worry that politicians seeking quick and easy fixes to the holes in U.S. intelligence will be tempted to call for
expanding the use of sophisticated electronic surveillance systems that will only lead to a false sense of security while further
violating the right to privacy.

“We need cooler heads now more than ever. If politicians are going to make statements about what we need to do to prevent further tragedies, they need to be reasoned and based in facts,” emphasizes Jansen. Jansen expresses concern that there will be more calls for mandating anti-encryption technology based on the belief that this will enable surveillance of suspected terrorists to be easier. Significantly, The 2000 Wiretap Report issued by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts that monitored wiretap operations from January 1, 2000 to December 1, 2000 discovered no investigations had been thwarted by the use of encryption technology. No federal wiretaps encountered encryption according to the report. Furthermore, while there were cases in which wiretaps employed by law enforcement officers in state and local jurisdictions did encounter encryption, the report discovered that it did not hinder the authorities from obtaining the plain text of communications.

Rather than the quick fix, Jansen said the Federal government should bolster its “human intelligence” capabilities, which have been
diminished since the end of the Cold War. Instead, the authorities at the Federal level have placed more faith in technology to
monitor potential security threats. The events of September 11th, in which terrorists could mastermind the hijacking of four planes,
would seem to indicate that it has been a misguided faith.