253940 Civil Liberties

Monday, October 31, 2011: 1:15 PM

George Annas, JD, MPH , Dept of Health Law, Bioethics & Human Rights, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA
Fear of attack often induces drastic responses from government that undercut human rights and civil liberties, and fear of death among the citizenry likewise induces acceptance of draconian measures. Post 9/11 America illustrates this. We have nowhere near recovered our self-confidence and our values even after killing the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks. Instead we have, in the spring of 2011, re-authorized virtually all of the original provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act that simultaneously added unaccountable investigatory authority to federal agents and agencies, and stripped suspected terrorists of basic constitutional rights. On the other hand, at our nation's most extreme, we have stepped back from officially-sanctioning torture (when seen as necessary to obtain actionable intelligence, and when repackaged as “enhanced interrogation”) and President Obama has explicitly denounced the use of torture by the U.S. and renounced Department of Justice legal opinions that authorized torture, including specific instructions on how to waterboard a prisoner. What can we learn from the radically different responses of the Obama administration to these two Bush administration policies, and in what way is it accurate to conclude that actions sanctioned by both the Bush and Obama administrations have become de facto permanent policies of the United States? Second, what steps should public health support for victims whose rights were abused in the war on terror, especially all victims of torture in US war on terror prisons?

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Public health or related education
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe issues related to civil liberties and war and terrorism. 2. Describe the roles of public health workers in addressing these issues.

Keywords: War, Public Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor and Chair Department of Health Law, Bioethics and Human Rights Boston University School of Public Health, School of Medicine, and School of Law Boston, MA and have taught' lectured and published widely on these issues.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.