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How to Preserve Civil Liberties in a Pandemic

POGO – “As the coronavirus pandemic continues, our country faces numerous challenges that will require not only extraordinary responses, but extraordinary vigilance to prevent the abuse of power during this crisis. And as unprecedented as many of these challenges are, the fear the virus provokes is not entirely novel. Accordingly, responses to past crises—most notably, several national security crises—offer a set of cautionary tales that policymakers today would be wise to heed. It is critical that we learn from our nation’s reactions to those situations to protect democratic society during this pandemic, and in the years to come. History shows that times of crisis are when civil rights and civil liberties are at the greatest risk. Constitutional rights are often not convenient. In fact, the framers of the Constitution designed many of those rights to inconvenience government. But it is essential that the government not treat national security and constitutional rights as an either-or, even and especially during a crisis, when the challenges at hand may also hamper good policymaking. The Constitution prohibits the government from infringing upon our personal liberty because the threats posed by breaches of our rights can be far worse than the problems the government may seek to solve. Infringements upon individual rights can have a corrosive effect on democracy that makes them hard to reverse…”

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