A week ago, high school students gathered at a New York high school to debate whether civil liberties ought to be compromised for national security. There were winners, losers and VIP judges; but the debate is far from over. As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the issues at the heart of this subject are thrown into even greater relief.
Each week, we will pick one topic integral to Securing Liberty and share articles, videos and a few interesting asides on our Facebook and Twitter pages (see below); we’ll create an interactive, balanced view of an issue that might seem perfectly simple on the surface. Guantanamo Bay, The Patriot Act, Torture and Racial Profiling are just some of the topics waiting to be scrutinised.
The legacy of September 11 is vast, complicated and highly emotive. Explorations of the rights of American citizens, the prisoners in their care, and the losses and gains of controversial policies will help you to determine whether America’s approach to Securing Liberty remains justifiable; and whether you thought it was justifiable in the first place. Either way, we’ll give you some of the resources to help you decide.
We’re going start this week by exploring the purpose of Guantanamo Bay and the role it plays in the Securing Liberty debate. It seems a simple trade; a few facets of civil rights in exchange for complete protection from terrorists seeking to cause wide spread harm to innocent people. Yet no arrangement that’s determined to make one nation a winner and another a loser should be taken quite so lightly.
Over the course of a decade, Guantanamo Bay has become synonymous with human rights offences. Prisoners are alleged to be held on the flimsiest of grounds, torture administered indiscriminately, while the inmates are banned from communicating with anyone in the outside world. This may seem a straightforward case: America is in violation of the Geneva Convention 1949, therefore they should be prosecuted and the prisoners released, or re-tried in a civil court. However, American law justifies the existence of Guantanamo Bay; the government insists torture is not as widespread as alleged, indeed, that the intelligence gathered from “enhanced interrogation” has been instrumental in saving lives.
By allowing this to happen, are U.S citizens complicit in the maltreatment of potentially innocent people? Or, as enemies of the state, have the prisoners given up any civil rights they may have had? The distinction between a “lawful enemy combatant”, “unlawful enemy combatant” and “prisoner of war” plays an important part in answering these questions. Similarly, the relationship between pragmatic decision-making and moral responsibility cloud an issue which has national and international implications. America is at war, sacrifices have to be made, but by who and for how much longer?