Bruce Schneier on Due Process and Security

From this month’s CryptoGram:

The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided the three legal challenges to the Bush administration’s legal maneuverings against terrorism.

These cases have been endlessly debated on legal and civil liberties grounds. They were decided, mostly but not entirely, in favor of presumption-of-innocence and due process.

But I want to talk about how important the decisions are to our nation’s security. Security is multifaceted; there are many threats from many different directions. It includes the security of people against terrorism, and also the security of people against tyrannical government.

There are some very broad security issues at work here. The Constitution (which includes the Bill of Rights) was designed to ensure the security of people: American citizens and visitors. Its limitations on governmental power are a security measure. Its enshrinement of human rights is a security measure. These measures were developed in response to colonial tyranny by Britain, and have been extended in response to abuses of power within our own country. Laws mandating speedy trial by jury, laws prohibiting detention without charge, laws regulating police behavior — these are all laws that make us more secure. Without them, government and police power remains unchecked.

We need to carry on these principles of fair and open justice, both because it is the right thing to do and because it makes us all more secure. The United States is admired throughout the world because of our freedoms and our liberties. The very rights inherent in these Supreme Court cases are the rights that keep us all safe and secure. The more our fight against terrorism is conducted within the confines of law, the more it gives consideration to the principles of fair and open trial, due process, and “innocent until proven guilty,” the safer we all are.

Unchecked police and military power is a security threat — just as important a threat as unchecked terrorism. There is no reason to sacrifice the former to obtain the latter, and there are very good reasons not to.

About Kevin

Kevin Jarnot is a technologist who lives just South of Boston, MA. He is currently employed as Chief Technology Officer at DebtX, a financial services technology company based in Boston.
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