Freedom Flies in Terror from Sept. 11 Disaster

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were so calamitous that they threaten to shake us loose from our constitutional mooring. A civil liberties catastrophe looms as citizens surrender to fear, fury and frustration and as lawmakers throw money and shards of the Bill of Rights at the specter of terrorism. Government officials and policymakers want an expansion of law enforcement powers to spy on telephone and Internet traffic, to restrict the use of Internet encryption products that thwart online monitoring of private email, to slow down and divert funds from the declassification of secrets, and to force public libraries to reveal information about patrons' use of their computers. "We must remember that we've gone down this road too many times before," observes Paul McMasters, the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Ombudsman. "We have suspended freedom of speech, press and assembly during wartime and other crises, to the point of sending prominent Americans to jail for long terms for uttering unpatriotic words. And always we've looked back in wonderment that we could have been so stupid, that we could have so easily cast aside our democratic heritage."