Security and Privacy

Aired September 12, 2001


Before yesterday, national security was mainly a matter of protecting our borders and containing foreign aggressors. We assumed that with enough border guards, a large enough missile defense shield and a sufficiently equipped military, we could keep bad things out. Inside `Fortress America,' we could lead our private lives pretty much as we wished. But we have entered a new era.


Before terrorism entered our lives -- when we were still innocent, when we believed America was protected from the rest of the world by vast oceans, when it seemed that mass terrorism could never strike at the heart of our nation -- back then, we didn't have to sacrifice our personal privacy in order to maintain our security.


After yesterday, the notion that national security is mainly about protecting borders and warding off foreign aggressors doesn't seem nearly as convincing. Countering terrorism will require much more. No fortifications or defense shields and no amount of military readiness can ever be enough to keep out people determined to cause mass destruction.


In the days and months ahead, it's likely we'll be hearing a lot about new measures designed to counter terrorism in the United States. Congress and the president will enact new legislation. The CIA, FBI and National Security Agency will be granted wider powers. Advanced technologies will be used to screen for weapons, locate bombs, track plutonium and eavesdrop on suspected national security risks.


In this new post-terrorist world, we're likely to have less privacy. We may be required to carry identity cards featuring tiny chips containing our personal histories. Computers will scan our faces when we enter large buildings or pass through airports to ensure we are who we say we are. Stationary satellites will be capable of monitoring our movements. The sites we visit on the Internet, what we write in chat rooms and in e-mail, what we purchase, whom we contact by cell phone--all these data are likely to be available to authorities.


To gain back more of our security, some will say that we have give to up more of our privacy. We'll do it gladly if that's the price we have to pay to counter terrorism. But before we embark on this course, we must be sure it is necessay. The willing loss of our privacy would be another tragic consequence of the horror that occurred September 11th, 2001.


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