October 13, 2008

The debate over border security, civil liberties, and counterterrorism took center stage at the University of Vermont Monday.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

UVM and the Vermont District Court organized a forum on constitutional rights in the homeland security era. Former federal prosecutor for Vermont George Terwilliger took part in the forum. He points to the 1987 incident in Richford, in which 3 Lebanese-Canadians were arrested for smuggling a bomb across the border, as proof that even a small state like Vermont is not immune from dangerous international security situations.

“In addition to that, Vermonters, like all Americans, are touched by whatever undertakings the government has to engage in in order to fight terrorism. And that’s where this tension between civil liberties and counterterrorism comes up. I think you see it now in controversy over enhanced border security: towns like Derby Line, where people for generations have crossed freely and things are tightened up a little bit,” Terwilliger said.

Some Americans have complained that certain personal freedoms have been limited after 9/11. But Terwilliger says steps like government wiretapping are still relatively rare and that the debate is over how much moves like that can benefit the greater good.

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