Bob Barr

The terror attack at the Boston Marathon on April 15 is seared into our national conscience. Not since the tragic morning of September 11, 2001 has America experienced such a state of panic, confusion, and uncertainty about its domestic security. And while the casualties of the Boston terror attack fortunately were limited compared to what could have been, the repercussions of the bombing will have a profound affect on public policy in the United States, particularly as it regards law enforcement and national security policies.

Certainly, law enforcement personnel responded quickly and massively to track down both suspects -- killing one in a shoot-out and capturing the other hiding in a boat. However, now that the immediate threat has dissipated, serious questions remain about what happens next -- such as what to do now that the suspect is in custody, and how to guard against future attacks.

The vast majority of Americans know instinctively that the approach being championed impliedly by at least one United States Senator (Lindsey Graham of South Carolina) -- torturing the suspect in order to elicit intelligence information -- is wrong both morally and legally. That a sitting Senator would even suggest such a course of action is troublesome in the extreme. Thankfully, the Justice Department has not subscribed to such an extreme and unconstitutional reaction.

However, the "lock down" of large portions of Boston, a major metropolitan area, does raise important policy and legal questions. "The unprecendented [sic] shutdown of a major American city may have increased safety some small bit, but it was not without a cost,” writes one blogger at Popehat.com. Arbitrarily "keeping somewhere between 2 and 5 million people from work, shopping, and school destroyed a nearly unimaginable amount of value," notes this analysis. The author adds that the cost also must be measured in the “degree to which it trains a population to freak out over minor risk and to trust blindly in authorities.”


Bob Barr

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.