NSN Fellow Tobias Gibson on Sec. Johnson’s remarks at Westminister College
Tobias Gibson on Sec. Johnson’s remarks at Westminister College
October 20, 2015 | THE HILL
Last month, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson spoke to students at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., regarding issues such as border control and cyber surveillance and how these issues are affected by guaranteed liberties and American ideology. Johnson gave the 56th Green Lecture (the most famous lecture in this series is the “Iron Curtain” speech delivered by then-former-and-future British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1946).
Johnson’s speech channeled previous Green Lectures, including Churchill’s and former President Harry Truman’s “What Hysteria Does to Us,” which was given in the early years of the Cold War…While the Obama administration has had its critics, it has largely striven to strike a balance between securing the nation and securing the civil liberties of her citizens. To be sure, issues such as targeted killing of American citizens and continued gun control debates need to be in the forefront of public debate. However, despite a long, public fight to the contrary, Obama announced last week that the U.S. government would not require Apple or Google to allow access to encrypted digital data of their customers. Obama made the decision — despite a fervent effort on the part of FBI Director James Comey to convince him otherwise — to ensure that Americans could not “go dark.”
In short, Secretary Johnson’s comments suggest that several of the nation’s security fears have been and continue to be misplaced. While many threats are real, and security processes and procedures are without doubt necessary, the United States needs to focus on security while ensuring the liberty upon which this nation was founded. Whether the reasons behind the shift in the administration’s policy position is based on moral, legal or political reasons, it is clear that that, as Johnson argued in his Green Lecture, the administration has reconsidered the balance of security and liberty, and for the moment, at least, American civil liberties have won out.