Today, however, we may be facing just such a threat, and one that is largely without historical parallel.
To respond, we as a nation will have to confront some hard choices. The enormity of the risk to civilian lives on American soil is unprecedented, yet despite this the Bush administration has thus far shown remarkable restraint. But as the president weighs what additional measures will be needed, both the administration and civil libertarians would do well to recall that our history demonstrates that war-time restrictions on civil liberties have neither been irrevocable nor have they curtailed our fundamental freedoms in times of peace. Indeed, our democracy can, and has, outlived temporary restrictions and continued to thrive.
And if, as we get thicker into this grim conflict, the administration deems it necessary to enact more restrictive steps, we need not fear. When our nation is again secure, so too will be our principles.
I hope that he’s right, but one of my concerns is the ill-defined nature of the enterprise on which we seem to have embarked. We do not have a formal declaration of war, nor do we know, ultimately, with whom we are fighting, and I fear that this poorly-defined beginning will make it more difficult to define an end, and that those who benefit from the usurpation of our liberties may find it convenient to continue the crisis. I welcome the sunset provisions in the legislation that has been passed, where they exist, but would like to see them broadened.
Of course, I think that we need a Constitutional amendment stipulating that all federal legislation have sunset provisions…