California Bar Journal
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Delicate balance between liberty and security
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Robert E. HirshonAs Americans move forward from the shocking events of Sept. 11, we must develop actions that permit prompt and effective investigation and prosecution of those responsible for these heinous acts. Additionally, we must prepare ourselves for the possibility of war against those rogue nations that have aided and abetted the terrorists. But despite the special measures we will need to take to battle terrorism, we must remember that our strongest weapon against anarchy and human destruction continues to be the rule of law.

The terrorists who attacked our country would like nothing better than to destroy the fabric of our democracy. We cannot allow them to do that; we must keep our passions in check and remain firm against ethnic or religious scapegoating. The terrorists also seek to affect our daily lives by putting us in a state of fear so that we cannot conduct business as usual. We must fight these fears by maintaining control of our lives and by finding a new comfort zone of living.

We know that some things will not be as they were before the terrorists struck. Our leaders already have united to address such complex issues as electronic surveillance, wiretapping, computer encryption and immigration procedures. As a country, we need to be ready for inconveniences, restrictions and the possible loss of some liberties. We must make sacrifices to find and combat the zealots who respect neither law nor religion. As Americans we share a common burden, a responsibility created by our citizenship. It is one for which lawyers are particularly prepared, and which we are ready to embrace.

To help this effort I have created the American Bar Association Task Force on Terrorism and the Law. The task force draws on a range of experts: a former general counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency; a retired brigadier general from the United States Army; and experts in the law of business, immigration, civil liberties, aviation, international affairs, technology, crime and civil liability. The task force already is analyzing congressional and administration proposals, and is prepared to help find an appropriate balance between national security and individual liberty. The task force's work will form a thoughtful basis for recommendations to federal leaders on these critical matters.

We in the American Bar Association are confident that our nation can achieve this delicate balance and preserve the principles that have allowed our country to thrive for more than 200 years. We stand ready to assist our leaders in efforts to eradicate terrorism and preserve the rule of law throughout the world.