Jacob Sullum

This talk of reassurance is a bit alarming, since a properly functioning Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board might conclude, from time to time, that the government's efforts to fight terrorism are not compatible with "our core values." The board should be highlighting violations of civil liberties, not preventing the public from noticing them.

Still, it would be nice to have an agency that focuses on the tradeoff between freedom and security -- or, more accurately, the tradeoff between one kind of security (against terrorism) and another (against tyranny). If it ever comes into being, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board will have plenty to discuss.

In addition to those national security letters (which Kean and Hamilton note "may implicate the privacy of Americans" because they require no judicial review or probable cause), there are those nifty new whole-body scanners at the airport, those missiles the president uses to kill people he unilaterally identifies as enemies of the state, and those regulations the Justice Department wants to facilitate eavesdropping and snooping. Discussing these and other threats to privacy and civil liberties would highlight the continuity between Bush and Obama, neither of whom has ever hesitated to trust himself with more power.

Bush and Obama "just have not put an effective board in place," Hamilton recently told The Washington Times, "and I can't understand why." Seriously?


Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
 
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