Bush’s Anti-Terrorism Program: The Very Definition of Inefficiency

If you’re like me, then the effectiveness of Bush’s anti-terrorism programs are irrelevant.  That they infringe upon civil liberties and make mockery of our right to privacy is enough to condemn them alone.

But let me speak to those who may not be like me, that would give away some freedoms for the sake of safety.

Believe me, I can understand such a sentiment.  After time and again invoking Franklin’s words that those who would give up freedom for safety deserve neither, I realize that this is not an argument that flies with everyone.  We are, after all, biological creatures, prone to the same primal instincts that governed the actions of our prehistoric ancestors.

For many, the safety of themselves and their families is worth the cost of a few freedoms, and that these rights are but a small price to pay for the continuation of the organism, and of the species.

But can we agree that we should at least be getting our money’s worth?  If you are willing to sacrifice freedom for safety, wouldn’t you at least want some assurance that the mechanism put in place to conduct this transaction is both effective and efficient?

I would.

Yet, that’s not what you are getting.  As Kevin Drum details, after spikes in both warrants issued and prosecutions made following September 11th 2001, there has been a significant widening of the ratio between the two.

Back in 2003, the warrants to prosecutions ratio was 2 to 1.  Now it’s 5 to 1 indicating that more Americans are under surveillance, but fewer potential terrorists are being prosecuted for the increase in surveillance.

The kicker here is that for as significant a condemnation this data proves to be for Bush’s approach to anti-terrorism, it is misleadingly friendly towards his policies.  As Kevin Drum further points out, we are talking about warrants issued here, which, as we know, does not account for all government sanctioned surveillances.  That number would be higher.

Equally misleading is the statistic on prosecutions which do not imply convictions, or actually capturing the bad guys.  At best, prosecutions represent potential bad guys, and one has to make the reasonable assumption that of that pool of potential bad guys, only a fraction are legitimate terrorists.

So the question now becomes not whether you would be willing to give your freedoms away in order to be more safe, but instead, are you content to give your freedoms away for a system that is becoming increasingly less effective and efficient?

 

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