How Patriotic is the Patriot Act?: Freedom Versus Security in the Age of Terrorism

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In this short book, Etzioni, the well-known and respected public intellectual and communitarian thinker, charts a middle course, or third way 'between those who are committed to shore up our liberties but blind to the needs of public security, as well as those who never met a right they are not willing to curtail to give authorities an even freer hand.' This book will prove a useful guide for citizens looking for a thought provoking, well-reasoned and sober analysis of one of the hot button issues of our time.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415950473
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 10/1/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 212
  • Sales rank: 1,001,724
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Amitai Etzioni is the Director of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies at the George Washington University in Washington D.C. He has authored twenty-two books.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 How liberty is lost 9
Ch. 2 An overview of security measures 27
Ch. 3 Privacy and security in electronic communications 43
Ch. 4 Public health and the threat of bioterrorism 77
Ch. 5 A case for national ID cards? 95
Ch. 6 The limits of nation building 129
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2005


    The renewal of the PATRIOT Act is under consideration is Congress, and the two sides seem far apart. There is great concern on one hand with protecting the country against terrorism, and no one would dispute that goal. There is, however, also concern over the effect of the act on civil liberties. The two positions are often expressed as renew the act versus let it expire, but Amitai Etzioni looks at the issue in a third, more balanced way. Etzioni applies his communitarian thinking to this issue, as he has in a great number of other contexts. His approach, here and elsewhere, is not to take an all individual rights/civil liberties or all law and order approach. He tries to chart a middle ground that recognizes concerns over safety but also understands claims of individual civil liberties. He rejects the false dichotomy of renew-repeal and argues that some of the act should be renewed, while some should be allowed to sunset or should be modified. He examines a number of specific issues, but his thought process would also provide guidance in looking others aspects of the Act. The reader may not agree with each of Dr. Etzioni's specific conclusions, but his analysis is insightful and deserves consideration. Anyone considering writing his or her senator or representative regarding the renewal of the act would be well advised to read this book to gain a deeper understanding of the issues and the conflicting values and concerns they involve.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2005

    Freedom and Security are Not Necessarily Zero-Sum

    On Amitai Etzioni's How Patriotic is the Patriot Act?: Freedom versus Security in the Age of Terrorism, comments by Robert B. Smith, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Patrick Henry proclaimed, 'Give me liberty or give me death!' Amitai Etzioni asks: If you are dead, what good is liberty? He then assesses the trade-offs between stricter governmental security measures designed to prevent deaths due to terrorists, and the consequences of these measures for reducing freedom. Drawing upon interpretations of the fall of Germany's Weimar Republic (pp. 12-14), Etzioni suggests that governmental ineffectiveness will precipitate a breakdown of democracy. To preserve its legitimacy after 9/11, the US government needed to effectively combat terrorism; the Patriot Act, with all its flaws and restrictions on liberty (p. 9), was designed as a means to that end. An alternative interpretation of the breakdown of democracy in the Weimar Republic explains the reasons for governmental ineffectiveness as the result of the polarization between the far Right (the aristocracy, big business, nationalists, and antisemites) and the far Left (communists); all of these groupings denied legitimacy to the Republic at its inception. Their failure to support the Republic prevented effective governmental actions that would minimize the impacts of hyperinflation and unemployment. It was in this environment that Hitler rose to power. He was not elected to office; rather a group of ultra conservatives persuaded the senile von Hindenberg to give Hitler power, which he then used to restrict civil liberties, annihilate Jews, and wage war (Henry Ashby Turner, Jr., Hitler's Thirty Days to Power: January 1933. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1996). The Patriot Act enables the government to restrict civil liberties in order to provide security, thereby alleviating the public's fears of future terrorist attacks. But governmental agencies can manipulate the climate of fear of terrorists and thus may garner support for tightening restrictions on civil liberties. Etzioni's analysis of public opinion data (pp. 16-21) documents that after 9/11 the apprehensive public wanted security and, unlike Patrick Henry, not death; therefore the public supported restrictions on civil liberties. As time passed, and as their fears abated, the public desired fewer restrictions on freedom. However, the Patriot Act lowered the level of freedom in the US and, apparently, the public has accommodated to this change, believing that that these measures, although they have been somewhat softened, are now at the appropriate level for the US (p. 21). After the threats are removed, rolling back the restrictions on liberty may be difficult because some elites may resist a rollback, and the general public may not sufficiently value liberty (p. 20). Etzioni advocates a national ID card that would uniquely identify an individual and prevent identity theft. He states: 'It is essential to develop reliable means of identification that work both online and offline' (p. 108). Toward this end he develops the following three-phase process: (1) Fortify drivers' licenses by standardizing their design across the states, issuing them only on the basis of appropriate breeder documents, and using technology to ensure that they are authentic (pp. 111-116). (2) Add biometrics -- fingerprints, iris and retina scans, signature recognition, and voice recognition (p. 118). (3) In the future use pure biometrics: 'One's finger, face, iris, or some other unique feature will provide all the identification one needs'(p. 119). One should note, however, that fake IDs did not cause the attack of 9/11; zealots with appropriate identification may be willing to undertake suicidal attacks so as to advance their political or religious goals. The vast majority of fake IDs are either produced by college students who are underage for drinking beer (but not for fighting in Iraq) or by companies catering to this demand (War

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2005

    Security measures OK if supervised

    If you expected How Patriotic is the Patriot Act to provide you a line by line analysis of the 150 plus clauses of the Pa Act, you'll be sorely disappointed. The book deals with only a dozen or so clauses, those that got much public attention and generated a great deal of controversy. However if you are interested in the main issues concerning the tensions between individual rights and homeland protection-you will find that the book deals with issues that go well beyond the Patriot Act. Etzioni argues (he even has data) that democracy has never been lost because of trimming of rights but-because security was not provided to a level that the public felt reassured. And-that it matters less which new security measures are introduced, than how closely their use is supervised. Thus cameras in public spaces are not good or bad, but depend on whether there is strong oversight so they are used only for public safety purposes and not for voyuerism. Now see what historians and the ACLU have to say about all this!!!

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