In this age where every terrorist action seems to be met by politicians and the public rushing to clamp down on the liberty of people who had nothing to do with it, my mantra is Benjamin Franklin’s comment:
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Well, recent research demonstrates old Ben was more right than that statement would indicate:
One method to attenuate [suicide bombers], then, is to target dangerous groups that influence individuals, such as Al Qaeda. Another method, says Princeton University economist Alan B. Krueger, is to increase the civil liberties of the countries that breed terrorist groups. In an analysis of State Department data on terrorism, Krueger discovered that “countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which have spawned relatively many terrorists, are economically well off yet lacking in civil liberties. Poor countries with a tradition of protecting civil liberties are unlikely to spawn suicide terrorists. Evidently, the freedom to assemble and protest peacefully without interference from the government goes a long way to providing an alternative to terrorism.” Let freedom ring!
— Murdercide Science unravels the myth of suicide bombers By Michael Shermer, Scientific American January 2006.
Not only does curtailing civil liberties not assist much in the short term with catching terrorists, in the long term it actually breeds terrorists. After all, terrorism isn’t about religion, or poverty, or even nationalism: it is about politics. The politics of civil liberties.
Thanks to Lambert for spotting this article.
It also might be worth remembering this point about civil liberties in relation to the Internet. An Internet reverted to the old style of telecommunication network controled by the telecommunications companies and governments, as so many corporate and government forces are trying to implement, would be an Internet that did not promote civil liberties, and an Internet that would no longer be a breeding ground for emergent applications and uses that facilitate civil liberties. Freedom is security.