‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ are three among many unalienable rights intended for all human beings regardless of creed. These civil liberties are the rights and freedoms of individuals that governments are required to uphold. Some of the most basic, and yet controversial, are freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of press. Each of these rights has somehow played a role in conflict, albeit on all levels of government. For example, people are awarded the freedom of speech, but certain statements have led to dire consequences, such as arrest or prosecution. On the other hand, freedom of press allows newspapers and reporters to explore topics of interest, until a national security label is slapped on the material and access is denied.
While there domestic challenges persist, contemporary external threats to these freedoms are also developing. For example, terrorism threatens these freedoms in a number of ways, while compromising the safety of whole nations and the people who inhabit it.
In one dimension, homeland security measures against terrorism limit the amount of freedoms citizens are guaranteed. One way is the violation of privacy in order to protect and serve. This can be seen with measures such as surveillance and wiretapping. Some governments find it necessary to invade the privacy of their citizens in order to ensure their security on the highest level, while some citizens and groups resent this violation.
On the other hand, homeland security and civil liberties present challenges to one another when suspect individuals find themselves being investigated, interrogated or even imprisoned. Some governments have active legislation that allows different treatment of terror suspects to other criminals, while many groups claim this as a violation of civil liberties and freedom.
Overall, as terrorism continues to exist, the use of homeland security and counterterrorism measures continue to be utilized. This undying conflict consisting of counterterror measures, the maintaining of civil liberties, and the pursuit of security threats like terror has taken the main stage of the international arena, and continues to test the boundaries and limits of our civilization. It has become a great challenge for governments to uphold civil liberties as they attempt to pursue and confront security threats. The challenge we face today is striking a balance between national security measures and civil liberties for all. How far can governments go? Which holds more value – life or liberty? How can we determine this value collectively? How can governments address terror threats without compromising basic human rights?
These are just some of many questions that are placed on policy makers and addressed in the field of homeland security.