NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Is The Choice Liberty or Safety?

September 14, 2001

Europeans are much more familiar than Americans with the sacrifice of personal freedoms they believe is necessary to combat terrorism. Some liberties they sacrifice in exchange for civil safety would be unacceptable to Americans accustomed to their freedoms.

Are these European-style infringements in store for the U.S.?

  • In many European countries, citizens are required to carry identity cards in public places.
  • Britain has a new law allowing the government to "proscribe" terrorist groups and the 21 now on the list are forbidden to organize, to support terrorism in any way, to organize a meeting for wear uniforms -- all punishable by 10 years' imprisonment.
  • Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain all permit closed-circuit television in varying circumstances to be used by police to monitor streets and other public places.
  • Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands require citizens to register their home addresses with police or other authorities.

European civil libertarians cite instances of abuse of these regulations by authorities. For example, some operators of closed-circuit television cameras were caught collecting footage of private sexual encounters and playing the tapes back to other official watchers.

Source: Marc Champion, Steve Steklow, Sarah Ellison, John Carreyrou, "Tuesday's Attack Forces an Agonizing Decision on Americans," Wall Street Journal, September 14, 2001.

For text (WSJ subscribers)


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