Ever since 9/11, national security has been on Americans' minds. And this isn't necessarily a bad thing. As rational human beings, we take steps to make ourselves feel safer. For example, we buy home security systems to protect our families. In exchange for a perceived cost – in this case money – we purchase a service that is designed to protect us.
In 1978, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was passed to allow "for the physical and electronic surveillance and collection of 'foreign intelligence information' between or among 'foreign powers,'" according to moveon.org. In theory, it sounds like a good idea. But George W. Bush is one person who has become so enamored with the idea of national security that he felt the need to step above and beyond FISA in order to protect Americans.
After 9/11, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others who may be considered "high risk" in order to protect national security. He did so without court-approved warrants typically required for domestic spying.
In 2002, he signed a presidential order allowing the National Security Agency to monitor numerous international calls and e-mails. These calls or e-mails are attached directly to people inside the United States. All the above information is factual and can be found at moveon.org.
We may not think about President Bush's actions on a day-to-day basis because we probably don't consider ourselves at risk of punishment as a result of domestic spying. What do we have to lose by having our international e-mails and calls supervised? Well, we can lose our privacy, for one. But to many it would seem a small price to pay in order to protect national security.
Ultimately, the choice to support the president's actions should be purely economical: costs versus benefits. What are we willing to give up in order to obtain something? In this case the question is, "Are we willing to give up civil rights and liberties to protect national security?" Many would say no. The American Civil Liberties Union is one organization whose title suggests that the price is too high to pay. Aside from the high cost of civil liberties, Bush's actions are unregulated and unauthorized.
Normally, I would say that as voters, the decision is up to us. But in this case, it's not. We don't have control over Bush's actions. In fact, no one does. I don't particularly believe it's a good thing that the concept of checks and balances is lost on Bush's domestic surveillance policy. We can protest until our lungs bleed, but nothing we can do is going to stop President Bush.
National security is one of the last things on my mind when my own government is violating the privacy of numerous citizens. While I don't make international calls on a regular basis, that doesn't stop me from being concerned about the people who do. I worry about their privacy in addition to my own. I support national security, but I'm alarmed when I consider the extent to which Bush could take wiretapping.
"Oh, but national security is a good thing," many Bush supporters would say. And I agree with them. But presidential abuse of power via an executive order is not a good thing. Let's not forget the presidential power Bush is utilizing is the same power Roosevelt used to place more than 120,000 Japanese Americans into concentration camps during World War II.
With Executive Order 9066, Roosevelt granted the military the authority to control thousands of Japanese-American lives. No one opposed this wrongful behavior due to the rampant anti-Japanese Semitism that abounded during the time period. Just because the majority of public opinion didn't oppose this behavior doesn't make Roosevelt's actions rightful and fair.
The same can be said for President Bush. Through his actions, he failed to gain our trust because he did this behind our backs. Given his track record with American trust (WMD's anyone?) I wouldn't say that is something he should toy with. On that note, civil liberties aren't something to be toyed with either.
Megan Schulz is a sophomore technical journalism major. Her column runs every Tuesday in the Collegian.