Terrorism: Freedom vs. National Security
by K.A.K on February 18, 2015 - 6:20pm
The issue of terrorism has never been more of importance than now, with the recent attacks on the French journal Charlie Hebdo. On January 7th 2015, two Jihadist brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi killed 12 journalists of Charlie Hebdo, an editorial known for its opinion on Islam and terrorism (BBC News). The days following the attack, a hostage taking situation happened in a supermarket. Amedy Coulibaly and his wife Hayat Boumeddiene were the principal actors of the siege (BBC News). With the Kouachi brothers, Coulibaly dead and Boumeddiene escaped the debate on terrorism and freedom is now revived. Could such events been avoided if these people were under constant surveillance or it is immoral to invade the private life of the population?
In the case of terrorism, I believe that some restrictions to freedom and liberties can be tolerated for the sake of national security. The attacks on Charlie Hebdo, the Boston Marathon and 9/11 are all proofs that terrorism cannot be prevented without a set a measures. Terrorism is mainly an internal threat, which requires governments to identify potential terrorists (Robb). Knowing that security is a prerequisite for freedom, a trade-off must be accepted in order to keep the people safe (Robb). To do so, Western governments such as the USA initiated public surveillance measures such as cameras, but also private measures. Mails, social media interaction and phone conversation are recorded by the government (Robb). In addition, people presenting a potential threat are tracked. These measures however, do not apply to the whole population, but only to individuals suspected of having ties with terrorism and Islamic radicalisation. These measures are still minimal, meaning that records are kept, but no preventive action can be taken in regards to freedom. As an example, the Kouachi brothers were known by the French government for having ties with terrorism. They were also known to have been in training camps in Yemen. Despite this information, the massacre had been a total surprise, since further actions towards them would be seen as unethical (BBC News). Thus, I believe that national security comes first when terrorism is involved.
Some may disagree with this principle, claiming that to violate a fundamental right is purely immoral. This argument favors the use of different solutions than those involving interference in people’s privacy. Freedom and liberties are fundamental rights that cannot be revoked by any government, thus the importance of fighting terrorism in a different manner. In addition, these measures often create a climate of fear within the population which encourages terrorism. The feeling of being constantly watched, the lack of private life that such procedures may bring will eventually lead to a loss of trust in the government (The Economist). Another argument against it would be the potential inefficiency of these solutions, given the fact that they did not prevent terrorist attacks. These concerns are indeed justified, however, as I stated earlier, the inefficiency comes from the fact that governments impose themselves a moral limit. Moreover, these fears seem to make reference to the entire population which should not since not everyone will be subject to these measures. Therefore, I do truly believe that further steps in the surveillance of potential terrorists should be taken, even if it means to intrude in their lives to save an entire population.
BBC News. (2015, January 14). Charlie Hebdo attack: Three days of terror. BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/
Robb, R. (2013, May 3). On Terrorism, It's Not Freedom vs. Security. Real Clear Politics. Retrieved from http://www.realclearpolitics.com/
The Economist (2012, November 15). Terrorism and freedom. The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/