The State of Civil Liberties:

University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone, author of the excellent book Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from The Sedition Act of 1798 to The War on Terrorism (among other things), believes the recent FISA amendments are unwise if not unconstitutional. Nonetheless, these legal changes must be viewed in perspective.

The legislation amending FISA is unwarranted, reckless and possibly unconstitutional. Nonetheless, the overall state of civil liberties in the US, viewed in historical perspective, is surprisingly strong. There are no internment camps for American Muslims, no suspensions of habeas corpus for American citizens, no laws prohibiting criticism of the war in Iraq. This might not seem like much, but in light of past episodes, the intrusions on civil liberties since 9/11 have been relatively modest.

UPDATE: Just to prevent any possible confusion, the point of this post is not to dismiss contemporary threats to civil liberties. (Prof. Stone would be the wrong person to cite for that proposition.) Such threats are real and warrant continued vigilance. At the same time, it is important to note that such threats are often overstated and that the federal government does not infringe upon civil liberties in the name of national security as much as it did in the not-so-distant past. We should be proud of this accomplishment, just as we should seek to protect civil liberties even more in the future.