This chapter’s Discussion Box is intended to stimulate critical debate about how to balance civil liberty protections against the need to respond to an immediate homeland security threat.
It can be argued that civil liberty considerations are largely a moral debate about norms of justice in civil society—in other words, whether a just society should suspend its norms of justice when challenged by real and imminent danger from violent extremists.
Consider the following scenario: A terrorist cell has been active in several cities in the upper Midwest region of the United States. They have carried out numerous bombings and acts of sabotage, including a hostage crisis at a school that left dozens of dead and injured. There is every expectation that the cell will continue its campaign. Law enforcement officials have captured a member of the cell in an apartment apparently used as a “bomb factory,” and it is evident that the suspect is a master bomb maker. The suspect refuses to reveal any information about his comrades, where completed bombs may have been sent, or where the next intended targets will be attacked. Lives are clearly at stake, and time is of the essence.
1. Which interrogation techniques are acceptable in this situation from a homeland security perspective?
2. Which interrogation techniques are not acceptable in this situation from a civil liberties perspective?
3. Considering the ruthlessness of the terrorists, should martial law be declared in the upper Midwest? What are the civil liberties consequences of doing so? What are the homeland security consequences of not doing so?
4. Should the captured suspect be afforded due process protections under the law?
5. Who should have primary custody and jurisdiction over the suspect?
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