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Letters to the Editors

By Henry C. Whitaker

To the editors:

David M. Debartolo and Anthony S.A. Freinberg’s recent commentary, though high on bumper-sticker worthy phrases, is vacuous ( Op-ed, “Stealing America’s Civil Liberties,” April 21 ). They never bother to consider that the content of our “civil liberties” is precisely the question at issue in the debate over how best to combat terrorism.

Their repeated appeals to this premise render their arguments entirely question-begging. For example, they state that the Fourth Amendment’s ban against “unreasonable” searches and seizures is “unequivocal”—yet the Framers’ textual appeal to “reasonableness” as the standard to judge such intrusions evinces a committment to pragmatic analysis that belies Debartolo and Freinberg’s dogmatism.

Though such tautologies are all too common in popular and scholarly commentary—their claim that “few people seem to have noticed the government’s power grab” and that “few commentators have felt the need to speak out about the theft of civil liberties” is jaw dropping given the Cheop’s Pyramid-like size of the newspaper and scholarly literature their empty rhetoric apes—they do nothing to advance a sensitive and thoughtful debate about ways to protect our nation while at the same time maintaining a free society—a debate surely worth having in these uncertain and dangerous times.

We can only hope that our other future leaders are more willing than they to enage in such serious thought.


April 21, 2003

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