The New York Times considers the question of balancing privacy rights and national security:
How should we think about balancing civil liberties and national security? It may depend on what a speech later this year tells us about how a modern war really ends.
At the end of 2014, most of the United States military forces should be out of Afghanistan (some may remain, depending on a number of Afghan and American factors). When they do, according to a former American diplomat, President Obama is likely to make a speech that marks the closing of a military conflict that began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. What he says may set a future context for what propelled both the Afghanistan conflict and the legal justifications for widespread data-gathering.
“In the legislative framework, are we still a nation at war? Is that conflict temporary or permanent? What tools do we want the government to have?” said Philip J. Crowley, the former United States assistant secretary of state for public affairs, and currently a professor at George Washington University. “If the Authorization to Use Military Force does still hold, you’re in permanent conflict. If it doesn’t, you go to an old or a new ‘normal.’” […]
“There is always a rejigging of security and privacy in wars,” [Steven Shapiro, national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union,] said, dating at least to the revocation of habeas corpus in the Civil War, and continuing through the imprisonment of antiwar dissidents in World War I, and the incarceration of Japanese-Americans in World War II. “The implicit understanding is that when the war is over we’ll go back to normal. Now we have to think of them as permanent and not temporary.” […]
Mr. Shapiro was somewhat darker. “The answer you get from people that they aren’t really willing to admit is, ‘I’m willing to sacrifice his privacy, but not my privacy,’” he said.