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The Sacrifices We Will Make - Civil Liberties 1 - 2 - 3

The Sacrifices We Will Make - Civil Liberties

The primary reason why Americans are cautious about how the government responds to the attacks of September 11 th is because of the likely risk that civil liberties guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution will be restricted. It is understood that in a time of war changes will be required and inconveniences overcome. But what are we really talking about?

Professor Anita Allen notes that in the months prior to September 11th national discussion of privacy policy tended to focus on the “felt need” of Congress and the courts to increase consumer protections. “In the two years just prior to September 11th, Congress passed three major laws offering major new privacy protection regimes,” she says. “One was Title V of the Financial Services Modernization Act of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, which requires privacy notices and protections to consumers of services provided by banks, insurance companies, brokerage firms and other companies providing financial services. The second was the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which includes protections for medical record privacy and security. The third is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, requiring parental consent for disclosure of personal information by children to commercial websites.”

Clearly, after September 11th the discussion shifted to concerns about the proper balance between civil liberties and the need for national security. Professor Allen notes that the USA PATRIOT Act “weakened provisions of the law limiting government access to electronic communications, including email and phone conversations.” In addition, she points out the loss of some privacy already because of heightened airport screening and profiling of passengers, and the stricter enforcement and enhancement of laws permitting detention of undocumented persons and visa violators.

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