an unanticipated consequence of
Jack M. Balkin
Jack Balkin: jackbalkin at yahoo.com
Bruce Ackerman bruce.ackerman at yale.edu
Ian Ayres ian.ayres at yale.edu
Mary Dudziak mary.l.dudziak at emory.edu
Joey Fishkin joey.fishkin at gmail.com
Heather Gerken heather.gerken at yale.edu
Mark Graber mgraber at law.umaryland.edu
Stephen Griffin sgriffin at tulane.edu
Bernard Harcourt harcourt at uchicago.edu
Scott Horton shorto at law.columbia.edu
Andrew Koppelman akoppelman at law.northwestern.edu
Marty Lederman marty.lederman at comcast.net
Sanford Levinson slevinson at law.utexas.edu
David Luban david.luban at gmail.com
Gerard Magliocca gmaglioc at iupui.edu
Jason Mazzone mazzonej at illinois.edu
Linda McClain lmcclain at bu.edu
John Mikhail mikhail at law.georgetown.edu
Frank Pasquale pasquale.frank at gmail.com
Nate Persily npersily at gmail.com
Michael Stokes Paulsen michaelstokespaulsen at gmail.com
Deborah Pearlstein dpearlst at princeton.edu
Rick Pildes rick.pildes at nyu.edu
Alice Ristroph alice.ristroph at shu.edu
Brian Tamanaha btamanaha at wulaw.wustl.edu
Mark Tushnet mtushnet at law.harvard.edu
Adam Winkler winkler at ucla.edu
It’s Not Only Security vs. Liberty, But Also Security vs. Security
The government spends millions of dollars in attempts to develop protections against terrorism in the name of national security. These measures often raise privacy and civil liberties concerns, and so the typical debate about a trade-off ensues. But in the larger scheme of things, terrorism is probably not the biggest national security risk we face. Historically, the numbers killed or injured by terrorism have been small; it is the possibility of a terrorist with nuclear or biological weapons that presents a very serious threat. I doubt that data mining and other government initiatives that are so threatening to civil liberties are really well-suited to addressing these threats. I have argued more in depth about why I believe the government is severely overreacting to terrorism as a security issue in a post on PrawfsBlawg.
The most devastating national security issue is, in my opinion, the possibility of a pandemic. But there is little attention to this issue. Sadly, it’s because all of the folks crying out to protect our security are so myopically focused on terrorism that they’re neglecting to think rationally about where the most likely risks are. It seems that countless world health experts are predicting an impending pandemic. We’re woefully unprepared, this Reuters article says:
Half a million Americans could die and more than 2 million could end up in the hospital with serious complications if an even moderately severe strain of a pandemic flu hits, a report predicted on Friday.
But the United States only has 965,256 staffed hospital beds, said the report from the Trust for America's Health.
The non-profit group's state-by-state analysis adds to a growing clamor of voices contending that the United States is not prepared for a large outbreak of disease, whether natural or brought on by war or terrorism. . . .
In an average year, influenza kills an estimated 36,000 Americans and puts 200,000 into the hospital.
A more serious strain strikes every few years and a so-called pandemic strain emerges once every 27 years, on average. The more virulent strains sweep around the world within months.
Pandemics hit in 1918 -- killing up to 40 million people globally -- 1957 and 1968. Health experts all say the world is overdue for another and fear the avian flu in Asia may be it.
The World Health Organization says an H5N1 avian flu pandemic could kill up to 7.4 million people globally, because people lack immunity to it. . . .
"The U.S. has not adequately planned for the disruption a flu pandemic could cause to the economy, daily life, food and supply distributions, or homeland security," the Trust's report reads.
"The U.S. lags in pandemic preparations compared to Great Britain and Canada based on an examination of leadership, vaccine development, vaccine and antiviral planning, health care system surge capacity planning, coordination between public and private sectors, and emergency communications planning." . . . .
When I read stories like this, I think of all the money wasted by TSA on developing airline passenger screening systems based on crunching through personal data or the Department of Defense’s expensive data mining research programs such as Total Information Awareness. Wasting money on programs where security benefits are highly questionable and where the civil liberties costs are significant is even more harmful because this is money not being spent on other measures that have more definite benefits.
So instead of talking about the usual trade-offs between security and civil liberties, perhaps we should begin talking about the trade-offs when we expend so many resources addressing one security issue while neglecting other security issues. Pandemics are national security issues too, but sadly “national security” appears to be co-opted as a synonym for “terrorism prevention.”
Of course we spent alot of money on health, but take a look at the budget ... for the past two years I've been living in Central Asia and the CDC office here gets signficant funding from DOD to do bio/chemical threat reduction, rather than, let's say studying the avian flu. Right now, the key word for getting funding is "national security" and I agree with this post -- that has come to mean terrorism.
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