Abstract: Lee Strickland

Intellectual Freedom in Times of National Security Threats:  Surveillance is a key intelligence tool that has the potential to contribute significantly to the national security but also to infringe our civil liberties in general and intellectual freedom in particular.  This is especially so as information science and technology have expanded dramatically the mechanisms by which data can be collected and knowledge extracted and thereafter disseminated.  Moreover, in times of national or social threat, history has demonstrated that governments often expand powers at the expense of citizen rights, accompanied by arguments that the innocent have nothing to fear, that mistakes can be corrected, and that the status quo will return when the danger is past.  All too often, history also confirms that these powers tend to become a new and diminished baseline of legal rights.  This presentation will consider the evolution of government surveillance in the United States from the emergence of organized policing, through the early efforts to address threats from anarchists and Bolsheviks, to the "red scare" that saw the FBI's infamous "library awareness program," to the passage of the USA Patriot Act addressing the new threat of terrorism, and to the proposals today for additional powers.  In doing so, we will consider not only changes in the law but also the impact of technology (e.g., data mining) on privacy and anonymity and the fact that the seminal information policy question is not merely the initial collection but rather equally the subsequent maintenance, accretion, analysis, utilization for other purposes, and dissemination to other entities.  In conclusion, we will suggest that although a government must have the necessary authorities to defend the public order, there is a concomitant need for effective checks and balances to guarantee individual rights.  Without such counterweights, representative democracies are no more immune from the deleterious effects of ever-expanding governmental powers than a repressive police state.  Over two hundred years ago, James Madison recognized this most significant political truth in the Federalist Papers:  "The accumulation of all powers . in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

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