Give me Liberty or Give me Death!

The Society convened on February 2 for the fourth debate of the semester to examine the question Resolved: Counter-terrorism efforts trump due process.

Mr. Greg Miller and Mr. Shom Mazumder, making his induction, spoke on the affirmation.  Mr. Stephen Wooten and Ms. Hannah Muldavin, making her induction, spoke on the negation.

Mr. Mazumder began by framing the debate and providing definitions for terms in the resolution. Counter-terrorism was defined as the United States government’s policies and laws and their enforcement. Due process was defined as basic civil liberties. He clarified that the resolution was a normative statement; the debate was over whether counter-terrorism should trump due process. He then began his argument by describing a social contract between citizens and their government in which the people agree to sacrifice some personal freedoms to be protected as a collective whole. The government’s primary job is protect the right to life of its citizens. Mr. Wooten then argued that the affirmation was blurring the line between survival and rights. He stated that the negation does support counter-terrorism, just not at the cost of depriving citizens of their due process rights. He argued that without these rights, citizens cannot be truly free and he ward the Society not to be fooled by arguments that only those with something to hide will be affected. Mr. Miller then responded that terrorism operates outside of the law and it is precisely this unpredictability that scares us so much. He continued that one of our due process rights is the right to not be arrested for a crime we have not committed, a right that terrorists exploit. Since their first crimes tend to be public and large-scale, like a bombing a building, do we really want to wait until hundreds of innocent people die to make an arrest? He ended, “Adapt or die.” Finally Ms. Muldavin described the atrocities of the torture that took place at Guantanamo Bay, asking how far we are willing to go in our counter-terrorist efforts. She pointed out that the negation has law and histority on its side; these rights, which extend to all people, not just citizens, are what makes America what it is. She used history as a warning, reminding the Society of the tendency to overreact when faced with fear and terror, leading us to the use of internment camps amongst other things. She concluded by asking, “When we commit these atrocities, how different are we from them?

Mr. Warren began the floor speeches by presenting this as a debate of ideals versus reality, stating that protecting rights is inconsistent with protecting society. He also reminded that this is not a debate about torture. Ms. Wood argued on the negation that the affirmation is assuming risk and uncertainty to have the same definition and stating that she could only stand on the affirmation if those concepts converged. Ms. Daniels added that counter-terrorism is targeted assassinations and thus negates  human life without giving people a chance to defend themselves. Mr. Askonas declared that he stood on the affirmation because there are existential circumstances and these necessary evils exist outside of the law. Kevin Diasti (NHS ’14) pointed out that the definitions of terrorists and criminals are very similar–both operate outside of the law–yet we give criminals their due process rights. He argued that while the US is attempting to promote democracy worldwide, the government is depriving its own citizens of their rights, rather than serving as an ideal to emulate. Vice President Prindiville reminded the Society that the government has been wrong in the past and asked, “What are we willing to give up?” The Patriot Act applies to all of us and what rights do the powerless have in the face of extreme governmental power? Chancellor Iacono responded on the affirmation by arguing that we must first protect the country and its citizens to even have rights. Using the example of 9/11, he pointed out that terrorists need only one attack to wreak havoc. “I would willingly die,” Ms. Green exclaimed, “than have to sacrifice rights and liberty.” She argued that the negation holds the sacred ideal of freedom, the idea on which the United States was founded. Mr. Dulik countered that this is flawed logic in the war between fundamental good and fundamental evil. He warned us not to ignore the harsh realities of terrorism, which deprives us of what makes us human. In the face of this fundamental evil, he argued, we cannot hold back. Mr. Henderson stated that we are voting on whether our final argument will be a piece of paper with a government seal or a trial by a jury of peers and asked us to “leave the door open for heroes.”

Ms. Muldavin argued that there are ways to stop counter-terrorism without sacrificing due process rights because when we take away these rights, we become them and we go too far. Mr. Miller then countered that the negation has made this a debate of extremes but counter-terrorism inherently has the same goals as due process – protecting our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Mr. Wooten pointed out that our system is set up to act on reasonable probability and suspicion through the use of legal devices like warrants. We have had terrorism for centuries and the affirmation did not address how counter-terrorism with a deprivation of rights is the most effective way to fight terrorism. Finally, Mr. Mazumder stressed that you cannot have liberty without life and we need to stop terrorism before it happens. He pointed out, “Nice guys finish last in the world of terrorists.”

The Society voted 19-55-1 to negate the resolution.

The following outstanding speakers were awarded Merrick points:

  • Ms. Green—5
  • Chancellor Iacono—4
  • Mr. Henderson—3
  • Mr. Medina—2
  • Mr. Dulik—1
  • Mr. Taft—1

This brings the Merrick totals to:

  • Mr. Henderson – 8
  • Ms. Green – 7
  • Chancellor Iacono – 7
  • Mr. Dulik – 5
  • Mr. Medina – 3
  • Mr. Manchester – 1
  • Mr. Taft – 1
The Society inducted Ms. Muldavin and Mr. Mazumder.  Huzzah!


Emily R. Coccia

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