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DURING THIS YEAR’S SEGAL LECTURE, a former U.S. attorney who spent ten years prosecuting terrorists, defended security measures that curtail individual rights, saying they are necessary in a post-9/11 world.
"I believe our government must, as its primary mission, protect the public from terrorist attacks," said Mary Jo White, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. "And that mission will necessarily exact a price in civil liberties."
Calling constraints on civil liberties "highly regrettable," White nonetheless recommended that the government place even more emphasis on intelligence gathering, which she said is key to preventing future attacks and, paradoxically, to ensuring less infringement on privacy down the road.
"The more targeted we are in trying to ferret out would-be terrorists in our midst and around the world, the less we burden civil liberties," said White, now a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.
White, who prosecuted the bombers of the World Trade Center and those responsible for the attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa, also prescribed tighter immigration laws and economic aid to Muslim countries to combat terrorism.
"We simply must gain greater control over who enters and who stays in our country … If anyone had any doubts about that, they should have disappeared when the INS last year extended the visas of … two of the 9/11 hijackers, so that they could continue their flight training in the United States. They both had, of course, already died on September 11."