Civil Liberties in Uncivil Times: The Perilous Quest to Preserve American Freedoms


The perilous quest to preserve civil liberties in uncivil times is not an easy one, but the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin should remain a beacon: “Societies that trade liberty for security end often with neither.” Part I of this article is a brief history of civil liberties in America during past conflicts. Part II describes various actions taken by the government to conduct the war on terrorism – including invasions of privacy, immigration policies, deportations, profiling, pre-trial detentions, and secret military tribunals. Part III analyzes the serious Constitutional questions raised by the government’s actions in fighting terrorism. The thesis throughout is that the farther we stray from our hard-won freedoms in order to vanquish those who would destroy our way of life, the more we become like them – and the more hollow our ultimate victory.


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Constitutional Law | Human Rights Law | Immigration Law | Legal History

Date of this Version

March 2006