Boston Marathon Bombings Lockdown: How Many Rights Will We Sacrifice For Safety?

In the words of Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), “the homeland is the battlefield.”

Just over a week ago, most Boston residents probably never would have imagined waking up to a deserted city being roamed by armored police vehicles, FBI, Homeland Security, and a locked down city. Ironically, the same city in which so much of our nation’s history was made will now once again be known as a landmark of change in the U.S.

The Boston Bombing caught the attention of the entire nation. We all experienced fear, outrage, anger, and loss in varying degrees. Support for the apprehension of the suspects seemed unanimous. Our nation was willing and ready to make sure that these two most-wanted young men were stopped.

During a time like this, many Americans would be happy to allow the police to search their homes or enter their property, regardless of Constitutional protections against it.

Despite appearance, Boston was legally not on lock down. The temporary police state was the result of a request by Governor Deval Patrick. Due to the dangerous nature of the incident, it appears as if many citizens happily complied with the request to keep their city safe by allowing the police to search the area.

If Senator Graham is right about this incident providing a strong example that the homeland is the battlefield, then this situation very well could be the new norm.

Falguni Sheth and Robert Prasch published a strong article in Salon explaining that the surveillance state did little to actually catch the suspects. It seems as if an arising fear among many is that the government (justifying the only real bipartisan legislation) will attribute the successful apprehension and stopping of the suspected bombers to their preemptive policing, promoted by the Patriot Act, FISA, NDAA 2012 and 2013, and so on. In other words, these homeland security acts in Boston could very well be used as grounds for government support for further policing measures that will inevitably invade the privacy or the liberty of the people.

Individual liberty is often at odds with the safety or interest of the masses. Such is the design of governments and the social contract. With the desire to come together to live peacefully, we all willingly relinquish select freedoms with the interest of the society in which we live. Our Bill of Rights was designed to prevent certain rights from being infringed upon, despite circumstance. Many seem to be okay with the lack of the Mirandizing of the suspect, a naturalized U.S. citizen. Removing certain freedoms or rights may help to assure safety in many cases; but is this the right way to achieve safety? How far are we willing to go to supposedly prevent or reduce further attacks? 

Sheth and Prasch seem to suggest that we could achieve many of the same results without the extensive anti-terror surveillance and policing. Keep in mind that Tsarnaev was found because a Boston resident saw some suspicious activity in his backyard. It was not privacy invasions or security cameras that caught him.

I asked a similar question last week, but I believe it to be absolutely essential to consider in the coming future: How far are we willing to let our government go in restricting our liberty or invading our privacy in the name of national security or safety? Is it possible that Sheth and Prasch are right in that the increased measures will not fix the problem of violence? Where is the line that we will not allow to be crossed? 

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