Professor speaks on civil liberties, national security

Lisa Hlavinka

Benjamin Franklin once said those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety.

And while Franklin did not attend Paul Haridakis’ speech Friday in Lowry Hall, Haridakis quoted Franklin after the speech to show that since the beginning of our nation, civil liberties and national security have butted heads during times of war.

After Sept. 11, Haridakis, a law professor, decided to examine First Amendment policies implemented by the government today. He researched the topic for five years, and has been researching free speech issues for the past 15 years. Although he understands the need for national security during war time, it is not the policies passed during war time that bother him – it is how the laws affect free speech when the war is over.

“It bothers me the extent that even small infringements that aren’t as visible can affect some rights later,” he said.

During his speech Haridakis talked about the Patriot Act, which passed easily in the aftermath of Sept. 11 but has been hotly debated ever since.

“It does more than I think we need to have done to ensure national security. I think the USA Patriot Act gives the government too much power to act without having to go through the proper judicial procedure,” said Tim Smith, a journalism professor who is also a lawyer.

Haridakis’ research focuses on the public’s right to access information about the government’s activities. Proceedings such as court trials and deportation trials, which he feels are protected by the Sixth Amendment to be public trials, have been made private.

“We’re piling up a lot of information behind government walls and denying people access to it,” Smith said. His concern is that if anything unconstitutional was going on behind closed doors, the public would not be able to find out about it.

Haridakis also touched on free speech zones – places designated for protesters during a political event. Free speech zone laws have always been considered constitutional, but during the 2004 Republican and Democratic National Conventions, the size of the zones decreased and their distance from the conventions burgeoned.

“What they do is they channel speech into a small area, and speakers should have the First Amendment right to get their message to their intended audience. And free speech zones restrict that ability,” Haridakis said.

Despite his concern, Haridakis said he does not think people would allow the government to restrict civil liberties too far because people today are more sensitive about their civil liberties than in the past.

“I don’t know that they are in particular danger, I just think it’s important for us to make sure that that’s the case,” he said.

Contact on-campus entertainment reporter Lisa Hlavinka at [email protected].