LONDON- My travels and the recent terror alerts in London got me thinking about the massive increase in security both in Britain and the United States since Sept. 11.
I believe the United States government has gone a little too far in reacting to the attacks and is violating the civil liberties of many law-abiding American citizens. For example, the newly created Information Awareness Office under the Defense Department can monitor e-mails, Internet searches and phone conversations of anyone they believe is a suspected terrorist.
Now, they can suspect just about anybody who speaks out against the government as a potential terrorist. But there is a huge difference between a protester and a terrorist. However, like during other times of heightened security and wartimes, civil liberties are often tightened. I think Bush may be tightening these liberties up a little too much, but I don’t think the situation is as bad in Britain.
Although going through extensive screening at airports and possibly having some civil liberties tightened is very annoying, many of the measures they are taking seem to be working.
On Wednesday a terror alert was issued in London and security was increased at airports and other high profile locations. Sure enough, three of London’s airports had closures and/or arrests on Thursday. Two men were arrested as a precaution at Heathrow Airport under Britain’s Terrorism Act, Stansted Airport had its access way closed for a time, and a Venezuelan national was arrested and a terminal was shut down at Gatwick Airport when it was discovered the man had a grenade in his luggage.
The BBC learned the apparent terrorist threat was that some Algerian nationalists with links to al-Qaida had obtained a surface-to-air missile and were planning on shooting down a plane at Heathrow. Obviously the threat probably meant often annoying checks of everything at the airport, but the increase in anti-terrorist intelligence since the attacks most likely helped in assessing this threat.
I am interning twice a week for a Member of Parliament at Whitehall. Many people I work with, including myself, get a bit nervous that they are working at such a high profile location for terrorists to hit. However, just like those who continue to fly, they are not going to let these morons who are hell-bent on making life miserable for everyone get in the way of their lives. But we did feel just a little safer when we heard fighter planes were patrolling the London skies.
There is a delicate balance both in society and personally between security and liberty, and it is often hard to find the right balance in times like this. I just hope those in power are constantly reminded that it is not worth being secure if you are not free.
Vince is a junior technical journalism and political science major. He is currently studying abroad at Middlesex University in north London. E-mail him comments to VBlaser17@aol.com.