Others, such as John Ashcroft, have labeled the critics as paranoids and said, "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and give ammunition to America's enemies". It is clear that we have reached a point where we must weigh the price of security against the cost of our lost liberty. When we do, we find that the over-reaching policies of our anti-terrorist campaign have extracted too high a cost in lost liberty, freedom, and our national identity.
The loss of our liberty extends beyond the inconvenience of longer lines at the airport and reaches into our daily right to privacy. One of the fundamental principle that America is built upon is the expectation that our personal records and correspondence have a sacred and legal protection against inspection without a warrant. However, the sweeping powers granted to the government in the wake of 9/11 have allowed the government to examine bank and phone records of every American citizen without probable cause. Meanwhile, the government is cloaked in ever greater secrecy as many more governmental meetings can be held in secret away from the press and the public (Chaddock). While it may seem that we only have something to worry about if we are engaged in an illegal activity, the fact is that it opens the door for corruption and abuse. There is the potential that political enemies could examine bank records to find out who has contributed to a given charity or political cause. It could be used to examine a credit card record to trace a person's travel or spending habits. Liberty is only of value when we need it. Once surrendered there is no returning it to the safe state of affairs that the right to privacy gives us.
Freedom is the ability to speak, act, and engage in any activity as long as it stays within the legal framework of the law. However, the Patriot Act and Homeland Security Act have given the government such broad powers that almost any activity can be defined as a terrorist act. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, "Greenpeace, Operation Rescue, Vieques Island and WTO protesters and the Environmental Liberation Front have all recently engaged in activities that could subject them to being investigated as engaging in domestic terrorism" ("How the USA Patriot Act Redefines"). The long held tradition of civil disobedience in America is now an activity that could send you to prison with no hope of bail, a trial, or release. The loss of this basic American right aids the enemy far more than the right to peaceful protest puts us at a security risk.
The actions taken by the government to protect the country from terrorism have been so harsh that they have redefined us as a nation. America is a nation of ideas and ideals. It is not the Rocky mountains or the fruited plains. It is not the skyscrapers or the Grand canyon. America is the ideal of individual liberty that is protected by a universal consensus that we are all entitled to legal protections and due process. This extends even to the minority, and sometimes disagreeable, opinions of the people around us. When we lose our freedom, torture our prisoners, and deny the people their inalienable rights, then we have lost what it means to be an American. The enemy will not need to come here to destroy America, it will be done by our own hand through this oppressive legislation.