(image by Donald Lee Pardue)
by Stacy Martinez
After the large scale attacks on France, many Americans are thinking about the possibility of another attack within our own country. The Islamic State is waging a war and attacks will continue. The when, where, and severity of the attacks remains to be seen, and there is reason to be afraid.
After the attacks of 9/11 the USA PATRIOT Act emerged as a more effective policy to combat the threat of terrorist attacks, giving the government more access to the surveillance of citizens within its borders. Opponents of the act argue that these new means of surveillance are in contrast to the principles of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and that the majority of the crimes prosecuted using these means are not related to terrorism. Proponents of the act argue that the need to pursue terrorists quickly and quietly without altering behavior before they can be apprehended is necessary for national security.
Do we need policy that violates the constitution in order to better defend national security? Another attack on U.S. soil could lead to a strengthened USA PATRIOT Act or similar legislation that, made in a tidal wave of fear, could weaken the United States.
The House passed a bill this week limiting the number of Syrian and Iraqi refugees following the attacks on Paris. It has support from both Democrats and Republicans. One Republican nominee for president insinuated he would implement a national Muslim database in order to officially monitor threats. Democrats and Republicans at various levels of government have recently talked openly about the possible need for refugee camps for Muslims akin to those the U.S. implemented for Japanese Americans during WWII. These policies have support from people who fear terrorist attacks, but policy decisions that take away rights from American Citizens are what should be feared.
Terrorists might be able to attack cities and property, and yes, even lives, but they do not have the ability to attack our values, principles and way of life. Policy that calls upon the emotions of strength and unity are what will protect us from terrorist actions. Policy that calls upon fear will not.
Stacy Martinez is a Master’s candidate in Public Policy at the College of William & Mary and an Associate Editor of the William & Mary Policy Review.