Beginning soon after 9/11, there was an immense public outcry over the measures which the Bush administration was taking in its effort to avert future terrorist attacks. This outcry did not emanate solely from the far Left. From the libertarian Left, for instance, Anthony Lewis in the New York Times Magazine accused President Bush of having undermined civil liberties in a way that Lewis “did not [previously] believe was possible in our country.” And from the libertarian Right, William Safire denounced the Bush administration’s effort to realize “the supersnoop’s dream” of spying on all Americans.
But the anger of left-wing civil libertarians was unmatched. Specifically, they condemned what they viewed as the
indignities of security checks at airports, the tracking of Muslim
visitors to the United States, the detention of suspects for indefinite
periods without access to the courts, and the government’s attempt to
limit accused terror suspects' access to important evidence. Still
worse, in the view of civil libertarians, was the Bush administration’s
plan to use military tribunals to try suspected terrorists. Finally, and
most troubling of all to critics, was the government's proposed
Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA) program—initially known as the
Total Information Awareness program—which would employ computers to
gather and assess vast amounts of data relating to the transactions of,
among others, unknowing American citizens.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) purchased a full-page newspaper ad charging that the Patriot Act,
the linchpin of the Bush administration’s security initiatives, went “far
beyond fighting terrorism” and “allowed government agents to violate our
civil liberties—tapping deep into the private lives of innocent
Americans.” Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington office,
claimed that Attorney General John Ashcroft had “clearly abused his
power,” “systematically erod[ing] free-speech rights, privacy rights,
and due-process rights.”
This section of Discover The Networks examines the substance of the foregoing objections, which cast virtually all anti-terrorism measures as egregious violations of civil liberties.
Adapted from "Civil Liberties After 9/11," by Robert Bork (July 4, 2003).