Sunday, February 17, 2008

Why We are Still in Perilous Times

While we finished our unit on "Perilous Times" late last semester, it can be argued that we are still living in perilous times.

Next week (on Feb. 25th) we will hear from Professor Geoffrey Stone, author of the book from which our unit took its name. Mr. Stone is a Constitutional law expert and he will talk about current threats to civil liberties. Sadly, the news is rife with such threats these days. Here are two examples:

*** Last week the Republicans and Democrats waged a political battle over the "Protect America Act," which expired on Saturday. The act updates the surveillance regime used by the government to monitor e-mails and phone calls in this country and abroad. According to the Chicago Tribune, "Republicans and Democrats are essentially playing a game of chicken that could test the public's attitude toward balancing anti-terrorist measures with civil liberties. Bush has often been able to prevail in such battles, but some Democrats are betting that the equation has changed."

*** This morning I read an extraordinary op-ed by Morris Davis called "Unforgivable Behavior, Inadmissable Evidence." Davis was the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo until he resigned in 2007. He once defended the practices at the military base, but here Davis reviles such practices as waterboarding (simulated drowning) to elicit confessions. Aside from raising questions of legality and constitutionality, he argues that the U.S. military's torture (to say nothing of the U.S.'s abandonment of the Geneva Convention rules our country helped write) has destroyed our moral authority. You can read his article in full by clicking on the title of this post.

12 comments:

Chris said...

The problem with the "protect america act" is on both sides. The republican need to keep from invading americans rights, and the democrats need to find ways to still protect us. The bill should be revised, not lost. The inability on both sides to compromise and find a legitimate solution to the problem highlights the problems with both parties.
By the way if there is a person who is a potential terrorist, the goverment can just get a warrant, and investigate the indiviual without compromising their rights.
In my opinion, foreigners may still be monitered, because they do not get the rights of the constitution because they are not citizens.

Sara D said...

I think the issue of the protect America Act is a very hard one to take a stand on. I think that though it is clearly invading our privacy and civil liberties, it is almost a necessary form of caution for our country. I do think that the degree of which the government was allowed to tap into e-mails and phone calls was unconstitutional, however, as Chris said, I think some form of it is necessary.

I disagree with Chris on the issue that foreign people should still be monitored. I think it is not America's right to pick and choose the people they keep tabs on, without probable reason fo course. I think it should be more of an all or notihng type situation

Elizabeth L said...

Over the weekend I watched a movie about Iwo Jima or something like that (after Pearl Harbor, America wanted this Japanese island that was pretty much a rock, but a base for transportation or planes, and the entire movie was astonishing to me that AMERICANS, young 18 year old boys, were having to fight for what seems like a stupid cause. But I enjoyed the movie because it did show the other side, the lense was through a little boy that was a soldier for the Japanese that ended up surviving and was the one to bury the letters of Iwo Hisha haha that are a resource from their side. I feel as if America would have perhaps tacked into the radio the Japanese were using, we woulnd't have lost soo many lives and killed innocent Japanese men.

Another theme for the Japanese side was that no matter what you didn't leave your regime behind but died with them even if it meant sucide. I don't know if this relates to this whole "PERIOLOUS TIMES" issue but I feel like there is a parallel some way with the whole purple heart thing and people constantly showing more respect for soldiers coming back from say Iraq.

But another interesting point is how 18-20 year old boys and GIRLS are fighting for our country and killing people, yet can't drink legally? What is your opinion of that?

Bernadette said...

I agree that the U.S. military's torture has destroyed our moral authority. But more than that we are putting our own soldiers in danger. America along with other countries agreed to the terms of the Geneva Convention. If we go back on our word and torture citizens of other countries, what do you think they're going to do to our captured soldiers? We cannot break our end of the bargain and expect other countries to hold up their end.

unfGuido said...

Well although I do find that you pose a good point bernadette, I do see that there still needs to be a way to protect our country from threats, but I do think that we can do this a different way. This relates back to chris's point of revising the protect america act. No act at all, i think, would still allow our country to function, but i find we need to remain precautious and find a way of gathering intel of threat without going through our privacy. However i cant think of a solution to that just yet.

unfGuido said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julia B said...

I think the "Protect America Act" is a very sensitive topic. It's essentially a balancing act, finding the what is NECESSARY to protect us, and what is taking advantage of our lives. I agree with Sara Dorn, it's unfair to pick and choose who to keep tabs on. If we start to say, these people need to be checked up on, but these people have complete freedom, a variety of issues will appear. For instance, who decides that and what factors make you a person who's civil liberties can be violated.

Agretch said...

I agree with Julia among others. This act is something that must've been very hard to create because it deals with a topic very dear to most Americans: their freedom's. We as a nation hate having freedoms taken away, but at times i think almost everyone can agree things need to be taken away to protect us. There is no right or wrong which makes this such a big topic, and i'd like to see it be talked about more for the current presidential election.

Eli said...

here we go 'OC:

I really enjoyed Geoff today (we are on a first name basis now). I thought it was cool how he talked and he just went in order of all our projects. You could tell he was really into it as well by answering all our questions throughly. He did not treat us like babies, he answered it like we were in his college class. And I thought that was cool.

Eli said...

Also, I would like to say I reject and denounce any person who speaks out against my comment.

Hannah D. said...

I definitely agree with Eli on that. Usually when speakers come to speak with a high school class, they treat you like you have learned nothing about the topic before then, which is never true because they are always there for a reason! However, I have to say it was a little confusing for me to listen to him the entire time because he did talk a little fast, but the majority of the time it was really interesting to hear what he had to say, and I really learned a lot. One thing I found especially interesting is how in depth he took our questions. What an intelligent guy!

Agretch said...

I agree with both Eli and Hannah that it was great that the speaker didn't talk down to us, but I also agree with Hannah that the speaker talked way too fast. Maybe the main difference between high school and college lectures is that you aren't given as much time to take things in in college as we are in high school and things aren't reexplained to us right away. You have to take lots of information in very quickly which is something maybe we're not quite as used too yet, but it was nice to get a feel for the kind of lecture we'll be exposed to in a little over a year. I'm sure everyone in the room learned a lot that day and everyone can agree the lecture helped us further our knowledge of the Perilous Times subject.