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APSU professors address need to balance freedom, safety

9/16/2002
September 17, 2002

Is expanding federal police power a threat to American civil liberties? Dr. David Michael von Palko, professor of communication at Austin Peay and a licensed state attorney, says the potential exists.

While some limits to freedom are justified in a post-9/11 world, and individual rights must give way for the betterment of society, new legislation like The Patriot Act does raise concerns, he says.

“The new anti-terrorism bill greatly increases the power of the government to ‘snoop' by reducing the probable cause standard needed for traditional search warrants. Over-zealous government agents could use this power to go on ‘fishing expeditions' rather than focus on meeting a probable cause standard.”

Palko, along with Dr. David Kanervo, professor of political science, were quoted by “The Leaf Chronicle” in an article by Todd Defeo that appeared Friday, Sept. 13.

Kanervo noted that while most American citizens are going about their lives as they did before Sept. 11, 2001, “there have been some incidents where people of Middle Eastern heritage have been arrested and held for several days or weeks while being investigated.

“In the eyes of some civil libertarians and some judges, the government has overstepped the boundaries which protect our civil liberties,” he said. “Fortunately, the courts, the news media, members of Congress and private attorneys serve as watchdogs to make the public alert to government action which may be inappropriate so that limits can be imposed on the actions of law enforcement officials.

Under the Patriot Act, passed just one month after Sept. 11, 2001, it became easier for agencies to hold terrorism suspects before charging them, to eavesdrop on or intercept communication and to seek information without a subpoena.

The article notes the likelihood that Congress and the court will take action to blunt the new federal policing powers.

“It is important to keep in mind, though, that we are at war,” Kanervo said in the article. “There is a fine line between maintaining the civil liberties of an open society that we cherish and doing what is necessary for self-defense.”

Defeo's decision to interview von Palko and Kanervo were the result of the Experts List and a “Local Angle,” initiatives by Cristina Henley of the Office of Public Relations and Marketing to positively position APSU and its faculty and staff as expert sources on myriad topics.