Not a Suicide Pact: The Constitution in a Time of National Emergency

The war on terrorism presents any thinking person with what appears to be an
irresolvable dilemma. [1] On the one hand, as citizens, we claim to have inalienable
rights that protect us against force, whether initiated by terrorists or by the state.
On the other hand, by insisting that the state assiduously respect our rights, we
can in practice weaken its power to deal with terrorism. If we ratchet back our
commitment to the rights we hold against the state, we court the dangers of
totalitarianism. But if we insist on an inflexible commitment to those rights, we
court the dangers of mass murder. We could of course simply deny the dangers of
either totalitarianism or terrorism, but if we acknowledge them, as we should, it’s
clear that there is a difficult problem here in need of a resolution.

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