Attention turns back to liberties
A year ago, it was all about unity and security. Rattled by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Americans rallied around the flag and accepted the idea that the government needed to take extraordinary measures to make people feel safe again.
So there was little public criticism when the Bush administration began to secretly deport hundreds of immigrants, most of them from the Middle East. Not many people objected when deportation hearings, previously held in public, were closed. Or when the White House won congressional approval for expanded wiretapping and spying authority.
But now, skepticism of government is back. In public opinion polls, the courts and Congress, there is an emerging resistance to what a growing number of critics say is an extraordinary assault on civil liberties by the Bush administration:
- Polls and newspaper opinion pages indicate that Americans increasingly fear that the White House's encroachments on civil liberties run against this country's democratic values. In a recent USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll, 62% of those surveyed said that the government should take steps to prevent future terrorism — but not if it means violating basic civil liberties. In January, only 49% said so.
- Federal judges increasingly are questioning the constitutionality of the administration's actions. In August, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati became the first such court to strike down one of the government's new anti-terrorism tactics. The court ruled that officials could not keep secret all deportation hearings involving people who were picked up in the post-Sept. 11 dragnet. "A government operating in the shadow of secrecy stands in complete opposition to the society envisioned by the framers of our Constitution," Judge Damon Keith wrote.