A security expert with the American Civil Liberties Union told MSNBC’s Alex Morgan Tuesday that the U.S. “took a wrong turn” in handling civil liberties since the 9-11 attacks.
“We have to acknowledge and grapple with the fact that, in the post-9/11 era, we took a wrong turn in this path,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, which monitors the country’s security practices. “We turned to policies of torture and now targeted killing, of Guantanamo and military commissions, of warrantless government spying and religious and racial profiling.”
The path ahead, Shamsi added, should not be defined by what she called a “zero-sum game between security and liberty,” but by a commitment to constitutional values.
Shamsi’s remarks come on the same day as a small rift emerged within the Democratic party on the question of security. According to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, the two top members of the House Democratic Caucus, chairperson Rep. John Larson (D-CT) and vice chair Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) said they would not vote to renew a wiretap law that was expanded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
“I am concerned about the security of my family, of my country,” Becerra said. “But I believe firmly in the Bill of Rights. And I will never do anything as a Member of Congress that will undermine the protections and the rights that we secured through our Founding Fathers at the birth of our nation.”
The bill is scheduled for a Wednesday vote, and the Obama administration issued a statement Tuesday in its defense, saying it allows for the collection of “vital foreign intelligence information about international terrorists and other important targets overseas, while providing protection for the civil liberties and privacy of Americans.”
But that is seemingly not the norm among elected Democrats; on the show, Morgan and her panelists agreed that there hasn’t been much progressive pushback toward the White House’s aggressive counter-terrorism stance. MSNBC host Steve Kornacki, said many Democrats who would normally criticize tactics like drone strikes under a Republican administration, have been revealed as approaching the matter from a partisan angle.
“This was the policy of the other side, this was something to rail against,” Kornacki said. “What I’ve noticed is that a lot of these same Democrats, they really like the idea that they get, now, to throw national security back in the face of Republicans.”
Shamsi’s discussion with Morgan and her other panelists, aired Tuesday on MSNBC, can be seen below.