NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 26, 2005

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, federal law enforcement officials have curtailed Americans' freedom of speech and movement in the name of "national security," says Melanie Scarborough of the Cato Institute.

Government officials, from the National Park Police to the Transportation Security Administration, have created delays and obstacles for those who wish to visit parks and monuments, organize protests, or travel by air. For example:

  • Historic landmarks are subject to prison-like security measures; visitors to the Statue of Liberty are no longer allowed to view the harbor from inside the statue, while visitors to Independence Hall in Philadelphia are subject to metal barriers and a "First-Amendment-free zone."
  • The Secret Service, originally intended to protect the President from physical harm, now rounds up political dissenters at public campaign rallies and herds them to designated "free speech zones."
  • The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) subjects individuals to embarrassing and intrusive airport searches; while the intention is to search those who might be a security risk, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Representative John Lewis (D-Ga.) have appeared on "no fly" lists.

Before the federal government further erodes individual liberties, says Scarborough, three things must happen:

  • Americans must recognize that nothing will be inherently risk-free, nor would Americans want to live with the kind of rules a risk-free environment would require.
  • Policymakers must weigh the costs of security against the benefits before spending billions of taxpayer dollars on security-enhancing measures.
  • America's leaders must be willing to demonstrate courage instead of hiding under a barrage of security officials.

Source: Melanie Scarborough, "The Security Pretext: An Examination of the Growth of Federal Police Agencies," Cato Institute, Briefing Paper 94, June 29, 2005.

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