Learning Content: Challenging Civil Liberties

And what makes us a great nation is that this is a country that understand that people have God-given rights and liberties.  And we cannot–in our efforts to bring justice–diminish those liberties.” —Senator George Allen, 2001




Comparison: How did federal wartime policies challenge civil liberties from World War I to the present day?

Principles: Due Process and Liberty

In 1755, Benjamin Franklin informed Pennsylvania’s governor that “those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” (Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor, November 11, 1755). All branches of government are constitutionally obligated to protect individual liberties while maintaining public safety.

Debate continues about the proper balance of liberty and security. It is not only our elected officials who must weigh individual rights and public safety. It is also the responsibility of those who are truly sovereign under our Constitution—the American people.

In this module you will compare issues surrounding civil liberties in times of war and crisis. From World War I through the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, you will review the content and materials with an eye to comparison as well as the constitutional principles of due process and liberty.

Activate Knowledge

On the Padlet below, address the following prompt:

  • Identify one historical or current event of conflict (war, protests, etc.) that challenged civil liberties and locate a link that provides a description of the event.
  • Use the + button to search for a location or drop a pin on the map with the location of this event.
  • In your post, include the link to the event, then briefly describe what this event tells us about the relationship between conflict and civil liberty.

IF other participants have posted, group your comment with another that post similarly. Engage by commenting, connecting, and questioning the content of their post.

To get started, double click on the Padlet or click the + button at the bottom right of the page and start typing in the box that appears.

Building Context

Comparison: How did federal wartime policies challenge civil liberties from World War I to the present day?

Principles: Due Process and Liberty

Adapted from writings by Melvyn Dubofsky, Binghamton University; Anthony Badger, Cambridge University; Patrick Allitt, Emory University; Maurice Isserman, Hamilton College; and Andrew Busch, Claremont McKenna College

America and a World at War

In the summer of 1914, Europe erupted into war as the Central Powers, led by Germany and Austria-Hungary, lined up against the Triple Entente of Britain, France, and Tsarist Russia. Wilson wanted to maintain U.S. neutrality. He asked Americans to be neutral in thought as well as action.

However, neutrality proved impossible. Wilson supported the idea of “freedom of the seas” to allow Southern cotton growers and Midwestern farmers to ship their goods to overseas markets, particularly the allied nations. That same principle allowed American corporations to produce and ship armaments to Britain and France while American bankers made loans to the allies.

While Wilson struggled to maintain U.S. neutrality, the war in Europe became a bloody stalemate. With the belligerents unable to end it, Wilson proposed to act as a mediator, offering “peace without victory.” Despite having suffered irreparable human and material losses by the end of 1916, the combatants had no use for Wilson’s peacemaking. Rejected as a mediator by Britain and Germany, he appealed for peace on January 22, 1917, going over the heads of the warmakers to deliver a public address known as the “Peace without Victory” speech. In it, Wilson promised the world free seas, disarmament, self-determination, and a League of Nations to maintain international law and morality.

Wilson found no takers for his utopian peace plan. Instead, in February 1917, Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare and gambled it could defeat the allies before the Americans could send an army overseas to join the allies. A month later, a liberal revolution in Russia deposed the Tsar and weakened resistance on the Eastern front. Germany now expected to turn the tide of battle on the Western front and worried less about U.S. intervention. The potential for a decisive German victory troubled Wilson, who favored an Anglo-American world order. The British encouraged him to intervene on the Allied side by providing Americans with the “Zimmerman telegram,” which conveyed an offer from the German foreign office to Mexico. If Mexico entered the war on the German side, a victorious Germany would return to Mexico the territories seized by the United States in the Mexican-American War.

Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany on April 2, 1917. He promised a crusade to “make the world safe for democracy” and better for all humanity. As the official wartime propaganda agency, the Committee on Public Information, later expressed the U.S. war aim: It was not “merely to rewin the tomb of Christ, but to bring back to earth the rule of right, the peace, goodwill to men and gentleness he taught.” The rhetoric of Wilson and his administration promoted a progressive vision for a new world order of stability and lasting peace.

The World War I Homefront

Domestically, war produced significant changes in the American economy and society, because the federal government quickly expanded to meet the progressive goal of an efficient and orderly mobilization managed by experts. The government instituted compulsory conscription and drafted millions of able-bodied men. It managed the labor supply to keep war industries adequately staffed with skilled workers. To finance the war, it raised income taxes on the wealthy, instituted a corporate “excess profits” tax, and peddled war bonds (called Liberty bonds) to ordinary citizens. It instituted a Committee on Public Information, managed by progressive George Creel, to control public opinion in support of the war through propaganda.

Propaganda advertisements like this one were used in the United States during World War I to encourage citizens to buy war bonds as a patriotic act.

To ensure that the U.S. military and allied troops would be adequately fed, the federal government created a Food Administration that rationed vital foodstuffs. A War Industries Board coordinated production to keep the flow of war materials running smoothly. A Fuel Administration allocated coal and vital sources of energy to factories and to the railroads that shipped foodstuffs and armaments. The federal government nationalized the nation’s numerous rail companies temporarily for the duration of the war and set up the Railway Administration to coordinate traffic flow. The executive agencies created during World War I represented a rapid expansion of the scale and scope of federal government power and later became a model for President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal to combat the Great Depression.

During the war, the federal government aggressively intruded into the relationship between business and labor. The demands of war eliminated unemployment. Workers demanded higher wages and felt no compunction about quitting to get them. They also joined unions and used them aggressively. Early on, a wave of strikes threatened to disrupt war production. In response, the government acted as mediator, urging employers to bargain with their workers. In March 1918, Wilson established another executive agency, the National War Labor Board (NWLB), composed of representatives of industry, labor, and government. Cochaired by former president William Howard Taft and Frank P. Walsh, a radical Democrat from Missouri, the NWLB required employers to recognize unions that surrendered their right to strike during wartime, to create representative factory committees for workers lacking union representation, to observe eight hours as the standard workday, and to establish uniform wages without distinction by race or sex. Protected by the NWLB, AFL unions doubled their membership by the war’s end, increasing by more than two million and reaching nearly 20 percent of the nonfarm labor force. Union power came to the previously nonunion meatpacking industry and to the open-shop steel industry. Never had the power of unions seemed so great nor the prospects for improving working conditions better.

The war and the growth of state power had severely negative consequences for civil liberties, however. All criticism of or resistance to conscription and war became synonymous with treason. Germans and German culture suffered from popular repression. Frankfurters were renamed hot dogs, sauerkraut became victory cabbage, and hamburgers turned into Salisbury steak. The government urged private citizens to form loyalty leagues and to act as vigilantes who could threaten the uncooperative and lynch suspected traitors. In 1917 and 1918, Congress passed an Espionage Act and a Sedition Act, the latter defining criticism of conscription and war as a crime. The Postmaster General closed the mails to radical, pacifist, and antiwar publications. A federal jury convicted Eugene V. Debs, the four-time Socialist Party candidate for president, of sedition for a speech criticizing conscription, and the judge sentenced him to a federal penitentiary.

Four times the Socialist Party’s candidate for president Eugene V. Debs pictured here in 1912 was arrested under the Sedition Act for speaking out against conscription.

The radical Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) experienced more severe repression. Federal agents raided IWW headquarters nationwide and seized every piece of paper and artifact they could find. Afterward, the Department of Justice arrested hundreds of IWW officials and leaders, holding them for trial in Chicago, Wichita, and Sacramento for violating the Espionage and Sedition Acts. Federal juries quickly convicted defendants, and federal district trial judges sentenced them to long terms in the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. The Wilson administration had a poor record of respecting civil liberties of American citizens during the war. (See The Espionage Act of 1917 Primary Source and the Schenck v. United States DBQ Lesson.)

Postwar America suffered the chaos of labor strikes, race riots, and runaway inflation during its effort to demobilize the armed forces and return to peace. Four million workers went on strike in a massive labor action that included a strike by 300,000 steel workers, 400,000 coal miners, and textile and garment workers; a general strike in Seattle; and a police strike in Boston. The strikes generated widespread popular discontent and caused authorities to respond with severe repression. As a result, labor’s wartime gains in membership began to dissolve, vanishing by 1922. Women, who had enjoyed greater employment opportunities and higher wages during the war, returned to the home or to low-wage jobs defined as women’s work. African Americans suffered a similar fate, one that was compounded by race riots in 1919–1921, the worst of which occurred in Chicago in the summer of 1919 and in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921.

The turbulent first two decades of the twentieth century raised enduring questions about the American experiment. Progressives expanded the role of government to bring about social and economic order while introducing many reforms and mobilizing the economy for war. Vast economic and technological forces were unleashed as America became the world’s leading industrial power and biggest creditor nation. The country grew more involved in world affairs and expanded the reach of its global power from the Spanish-American War to World War I. Americans debated the desirability of these changes and the country’s response to them as the war reshaped the modern world and they faced the postwar period.

On the American Home Front in World War II

The federal government used precedents from World War I to mobilize millions of workers to produce supplies for the war and to draft millions of soldiers for the armed forces. Executive agencies were again created to rationalize the war effort and manage the American economy and society. The Office of War Information managed popular opinion through propaganda posters and films such as the Why We Fight series (see the World War II Propaganda Posters, 1941–1945 Primary Source). The War Production Board, Office of War Mobilization, and National Resources Planning Board helped manage war production. The National War Labor Board helped negotiate labor-management relations.

The American industrial achievement in becoming the “arsenal for democracy,” as Roosevelt described the country’s production capacity to supply itself and its allies, was astonishing. In 1939, defense spending was a mere 1 percent of GNP; by 1944 it was 44 percent. Government spending increased from $9 billion a year at the beginning of the war to $98 billion in 1944 and totaled approximately $300 billion. During the war, the country produced 100,000 tanks, 300,000 airplanes, 1,500 naval vessels, 2.3 million trucks, 35,000 landing craft, dozens of aircraft carriers, and the technology to manufacture two atomic bombs (see The Manhattan Project Narrative).

The war convinced liberals that Keynesian government spending could secure full employment. Whereas the New Deal had scarcely reached 1929 levels of employment after 10 years, the war created 17 million new jobs. The government funded the war with a combination of taxes and war bonds in almost equal amounts. What made this level of funding possible was that in 1945, approximately 42.6 million Americans paid federal income tax, compared with only three million in 1939.

Government spending during the war contributed significantly to the emergence of the “Sun Belt” across the South and West. Military bases opened across the region to train millions of troops. Shipbuilding in New Orleans, Pascagoula, Charleston, and Norfolk attracted tens of thousands of workers. Factories and research facilities for war production sprang up, and local communities grew around them. The Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb built facilities in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Hanford, Washington. During the war and after, millions of people left the old industrial centers of the Northeast and Midwest and rural areas of the South in search of jobs in the growing Sun Belt.

During the war, labor unions achieved large gains, building on their New Deal protections and success in organizing workers. Union membership increased from nine million to 15 million during the war to reach the zenith of organized labor’s strength during the twentieth century. Union leaders wanted to prove their contribution to the war with a “no strike” pledge in return for continued federal protections, such as the “maintenance of membership” policy in which the government protected the closed shop in which workers were forced to join unions. Nonetheless, government wage and price controls could not curb inflation during the war, and in response, workers launched “wildcat” strikes, walkouts that were not officially sanctioned by the unions. In 1943, Congress passed the Smith-Connally Act, giving the president authority to seize plants or mines where striking workers interfered with war production.

To meet demands for labor, the defense industries and the armed services had to turn to African American workers and military recruits. African American leaders in World War II demanded concessions for their participation in the war effort (see the A. Philip Randolph, The Call to Negro America to March on Washington, 1941 Primary Source). A threatened march on Washington forced Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802, which aimed to eliminate racial discrimination in firms with defense contracts and to end discrimination, but not segregation, in the armed services. One million African Americans left farms and moved to the southern and northern cities to work in factories. Another million served in the military. African American leaders campaigned for a Double V, victory against segregation and racism at home and victory overseas (see the Double V for Victory: The Effort to Integrate the U.S. Military Narrative). African Americans also flocked to join the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and participate in lawsuits against segregation. They increasingly held the electoral balance of power in northern cities. In the South, black servicemen returned from the war with raised expectations and a determination to assert their civil rights.

Japanese Americans were especially targeted for discrimination on the home front during World War II. In the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack, many Americans on the West Coast were fearful of additional attacks and suspected Japanese Americans might act as saboteurs, even though no such act was ever discovered. In February 1942, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which forced Japanese Americans to move away from the West Coast. Approximately 15,000 went to live with relatives or friends in other parts of the country, and those already residing outside the proscribed area stayed where they were. Soon, 130,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast were relocated to what the government called internment camps under the control of the War Relocation Authority. The camps were enclosed and guarded, but detainees could get passes for agricultural work outside the camp. Many lost their property and jobs while they were confined at the camps. Approximately 33,000 Japanese Americans served in U.S. armed forces, and 3,000 of those formed the highly decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team. In Korematsu v. United States (1944), the Supreme Court asserted that curtailing civil liberties on account of race was “immediately suspect” but upheld Fred Korematsu’s conviction for violating the evacuation order. By then, however, the Japanese Americans were returning to their homes, though many found their property had been stolen (see the Korematsu v. United States and Japanese Internment DBQ Lesson)

In 1932, the United States had been in desperate economic straits. It had a tiny military and no soldiers outside the mainland and Hawaii. But by 1945, the nation was enjoying a level of prosperity unequalled anywhere in the world. In only 13 years, the federal government, for the first time, had become a significant presence for ordinary Americans. Its size and spending dramatically increased to combat economic catastrophe and authoritarian expansion overseas. Globally, the United States went from having an isolationist foreign policy to being an atomic superpower with worldwide commitments and military bases around the globe.

Joseph McCarthy and the Red Scare

Fear of communism, not only abroad but at home, was one of the postwar era’s great obsessions. Ever since the Russian Revolution of 1917, a small and dedicated American Communist Party had aimed to overthrow capitalism and create a Communist America. Briefly popular during the crisis of the Great Depression and again when Stalin was an American ally in World War II, the party shrank during the early Cold War years. Rising politicians like the young California congressman Richard Nixon nevertheless discovered that anti-Communism was a useful issue for gaining visibility. Nixon helped win publicity for the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), whose hearings urged former communists to expose their old comrades in the name of national security, especially in government and Hollywood. In 1947, President Truman issued Executive Order No. 9835, establishing loyalty boards investigating the communist sympathies of 2.5 million federal employees. (See The Postwar Red Scare and the Cold War Spy Cases Narratives.)

The most unscrupulous anti-communist was Senator Joseph R. McCarthy (R-WI), who used fear of communism as a powerful political issue during the early Cold War. He made reckless allegations that the government was riddled with communists and their sympathizers, even including Secretary of State George Marshall. Intimidating all critics by accusing them of being part of a great communist conspiracy, McCarthy finally overplayed his hand in publicly televised hearings by accusing the U.S. Army of knowingly harboring communists among its senior officers. The Senate censured him in December 1954, after which his influence evaporated, but for four years, he had been one of the most important figures in American political life. Although he was correct that the Soviets had spies in the U.S. government, McCarthy created a climate of fear and ruined the lives of innocent people for his own political gain during what became known as the “Second Red Scare.” (See the McCarthyism DBQ Lesson.)

Senator Joseph McCarthy (left) is pictured with his lawyer Roy Cohn during the 1950s McCarthy-Army clash.

Several highly publicized spy cases commanded national attention. Klaus Fuchs and other scientists with detailed knowledge of the Manhattan Project were caught passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. In 1950, Alger Hiss was prosecuted for perjury before Congress and accused of sharing State Department documents with the Soviets. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were tried for espionage in 1951 and executed two years later. Julius was convicted of running a spy ring associated with selling atomic secrets to the Russians, though the case against Ethel’s direct involvement was thinner.

President Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam

Although President Johnson assured voters in the 1964 campaign that he was not going to send “American boys” to fight a war in Vietnam that should be fought by “Asian boys,” he was already considering an escalation of the conflict after the election. On the night of August 4, 1964, after an incident involving North Vietnamese torpedo boats a few days before in the Gulf of Tonkin, the USS Maddox responded to sonar signals and, deciding it was once again under attack, fired into the darkness.

There were no attackers, but nonetheless, Johnson ordered retaliatory U.S. airstrikes against North Vietnamese coastal installations. He also secured congressional approval of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which served as a functional declaration of war against North Vietnam until it was repealed in 1971 (see the The Tonkin Gulf Resolution, 1964 Primary Source). What Congress did not know was that the administration had been prepared since May to submit such a resolution when the right incident came along. Congress also did not know about the Maddox’s role in ongoing raids along the North Vietnamese coastline.

These actions were part of a pattern of deception practiced by successive administrations in Vietnam, which the American public learned of only with the publication of the “Pentagon Papers,” a top-secret Defense Department study of the war, commissioned in 1967 and leaked to the press in 1971. In the spring of 1965, President Johnson dramatically escalated the American war effort by initiating Operation Rolling Thunder (an air assault on North Vietnam) and dispatching marines and soldiers to engage in combat (see The Vietnam War: Ia Drang Valley Narrative). As the number of American troops fighting in Vietnam increased, closing in on 500,000 by the end of 1967, so did the number of American casualties. Only 206 American soldiers had died in the war in 1964; in 1967, more than 11,300 lost their lives (see The Vietnam War Experience: An Interview with Veteran William Maxwell Barner III Primary Source).

U.S. bombers launch ordinances over North Vietnam during Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965.

President Johnson spoke of steady progress toward victory, but the American public grew increasingly uneasy. Support for the war collapsed when the Communists launched their surprise “Tet Offensive” at the end of January 1968, attacking Saigon and dozens of smaller cities across South Vietnam. The United States lost more than 2,000 soldiers in February, the highest monthly death toll to date. The Communists lost far more and, militarily, the offensive was a significant military defeat for them because their forces were decimated. But psychologically it proved a victory, fatally undermining public support for the war in the United States (see the Walter Cronkite Speaks Out against Vietnam, February 27, 1968 Primary Source). The shock also led to President Johnson’s decision to not seek reelection in 1968.

Student Movements

In the spring of 1962, several dozen student delegates met in Port Huron, Michigan, to adopt a program for a radical new campus group, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). After several days of debate, they arrived at a consensus and adopted the Port Huron Statement, a declaration of generational identity. SDS was the principal “New Left” organization in the 1960s that questioned the authority and legitimacy of society’s institutions.

For SDS, and for the New Left as a whole, civil rights were an inspiration and a model for the student movement and society. The Port Huron Statement advocated a “participatory democracy,” with a preference for grassroots and direct-action politics. In the summer of 1964, nearly 1,000 northern college students, mostly white, traveled to Mississippi to take part in Freedom Summer, a voter registration campaign spearheaded by SNCC. At the very start of the summer, three Freedom Summer volunteers, one black and two white, were abducted by local Ku Klux Klan members and murdered. It proved a formative experience for the students who were “putting their bodies on the line.”

In the fall of 1964, the University of California, Berkeley, banned on-campus political activities by students in outdoor public settings. A coalition of campus groups known as the Free Speech Movement (FSM) came together to challenge the ban (see the Protests at the University of California, Berkeley Decision Point). It was led by undergraduate Mario Savio, just returned from Freedom Summer. Many of the FSM’s tactics, rhetoric, and songs came directly from the civil rights struggle, including the use of direct-action civil disobedience. The climax of the campaign came when hundreds of students occupied Sproul Hall, Berkeley’s main administration building, and were arrested.

The war in Vietnam provided a major new issue for the student movement. As the war escalated in the spring of 1965, so did debate at home over its wisdom. The anti-war movement, like the civil rights movement with which it overlapped, was primarily a moral cause. In April 1965, SDS organized a rally and march in Washington, DC, to protest the war (see Students and the Anti-War Movement Narrative). Much to the organizers’ surprise, 20,000 people turned out, the largest anti-war gathering to date (later protests in Washington, DC, brought out as many as 500,000).

As the war dragged on year after year, the idea of moving from simply marching against it to conducting some form of resistance grew more popular among youthful anti-war protesters. Some draft-eligible young men became draft resisters, which meant refusing to carry draft cards or submit to the draft if called, and several thousand went to jail or fled to Canada as a result.

The official slogan for the October 1967 March on the Pentagon was “From Protest to Resistance.” On October 21, approximately 75,000 protesters gathered before the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, for a traditional rally. When that concluded, tens of thousands marched to the Pentagon, located across the Potomac River in Northern Virginia. Approximately 5,000 broke through lines of military police to reach the side of the building, where they prepared to spend the night. Some of the protesters were members of the “Yippies,” who promised (absurdly) to levitate the Pentagon to mock military institutions with public theater. Hundreds were arrested. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, a key architect of the Vietnam War, watched the spectacle from his office above, by then more disturbed by the war he had helped launch than by the protests against it (see the Image Analysis: March on the Pentagon, October 21, 1967 Primary Source).

An anti-war protester offers a flower to military police during the 1967 March on the Pentagon.

George W. Bush and a Changing World

George W. Bush, governor of Texas and son of George H. W. Bush, ran for president in a hotly contested 2000 race against Vice President Al Gore. After two recounts and intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore (2000), Bush was declared the winner in the decisive state of Florida, giving him the required majority in the Electoral College. Bush had run on a theme of “compassionate conservatism.” As president, he combined traditionally liberal and conservative domestic policies, including a large tax cut, a major expansion of federal involvement in elementary and secondary education through the No Child Left Behind Act, and an expansion of Medicare to include prescription drug coverage. He also defended traditional marriage and made an unsuccessful proposal to privatize Social Security by establishing personal accounts for workers.

However, most of Bush’s presidency was consumed by the War on Terror, the United States’ response to al-Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Bush’s external response initially focused on attacking al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies in Afghanistan, which the terrorist group had used as safe haven. The Taliban regime was toppled in short order and al-Qaeda was driven into hiding, but fighting continued. In 2003, fearing that Saddam Hussein retained a large stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and was friendly with terrorists, Bush received authorization from Congress to invade Iraq. Saddam’s dictatorship there was quickly toppled, but U.S. forces did not find the WMDs they expected. The Bush administration then shifted the primary rationale for the invasion to spreading democracy and peace in the Middle East. After the successful overthrow of the regime, U.S. forces encountered an insurgency from supporters of Saddam as well as al-Qaeda in Iraq. Facing a deteriorating situation with heavy U.S. casualties from improvised explosive devices (IEDs), Bush ordered a surge of additional troops that turned the tide of battle in 2007. (See the U.S. Military Intervention in Afghanistan Decision Point.) (See the Was the Invasion of Iraq Justified? Point-Counterpoint.)

On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked commercial airplanes and flew them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon killing nearly 3 000 people and igniting the War on Terror. This photograph shows the damage done to the Trade Center’s Twin Towers which collapsed shortly after the planes’ impact.

After the initial success, the Iraq War became increasingly controversial among Americans, as did the Bush Administration’s policies for dealing with detained terrorists or “enemy combatants.” One controversy was over the indefinite holding of detainees at a U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Moreover, the administration used “enhanced interrogation” techniques that many Americans saw as torture. In several Supreme Court cases, including Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Rasul v. Bush, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, and Boumediene v. Bush, the Supreme Court placed limits on the president’s executive discretion and insisted that enemy combatants had certain habeas corpus rights.

At home, the War on Terror led to increased efforts to investigate and stop terrorism through new government agencies such as the Transportation Safety Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. The National Security Administration (NSA) conducted a controversial telephone surveillance program of American citizens that some thought was a violation of individual civil liberties. In 2001, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act, which gave law enforcement stronger tools to fight terrorism through “roving wiretaps” on multiple devices in a single authorization and “sneak and peak” warrants that allowed searches and seizures in homes and businesses without the authorization or consent of the owner. These provisions led to concerns that civil liberties related to privacy and the Fourth Amendment were being compromised. Congress renewed the act several times during the Bush and Obama administrations. (See The USA PATRIOT Act Narrative.) (See the Does the Threat of Terrorism Justify Increased Surveillance? Point-Counterpoint.)

Analyzing Resources for Principles and Skills

Comparison: How did federal wartime policies challenge civil liberties from World War I to the present day?

Principles: Due Process and Liberty

There is a wealth of resources available in our Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness digital textbook. The resources are organized into different categories including:

📎 Inquiry Organizer: Summary of chapter objectives and resources

📖 Chapter Introductory Essay: In-depth overview of significant events in the time period

🔎 Narratives: Shorter essays on a dramatic story or individual

📍 Decision Points: Narratives that describe a pivotal decision in history

💬 Point-Counterpoints: Differing sides of an argument presented by scholars or historical figures

✒️ Primary Sources: Firsthand accounts from the time period

📝 Lessons: Instructions and handouts to engage students in the classroom

✏️ Unit Essay Activity: Culminating essay based on AP LEQs to assess chapter objectives

Using the provided reflection questions, review the following resources:

  1. 💬 Does the Threat of Terrorism Justify Increased Surveillance? Point-Counterpoint
  2. 📝 Security, Liberty, and the USA PATRIOT Act Lesson
  3. 🔎 Postwar Red Scare Narrative

Then choose at least two more resources to review. In the discussion, you will be asked to share your reflections of these resources.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What do these resources reveal about due process and civil liberties during different times of conflict?
  2. How these resources help in understanding the similarities and differences between how civil liberties have been addressed or challenged during times of conflict?

Other Resources

Instructional Plan

Comparison: How did federal wartime policies challenge civil liberties from World War I to the present day?

Principles: Due Process and Liberty

The following instructional plan is an example of a conceptual teaching approach, centered on an overarching essential question. Not all resources on this topic available in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness have been included. Review the plan using the provided reflection questions.

  • To what extent are the constitutional principles and historical reasoning skills evident in the materials and activities used in the instructional plan?
  • To what extent does the conceptual focus of this instructional plan help students answer the essential question: How did federal wartime policies challenge civil liberties from World War I to the present day?
  • What adjustments might you make to better address the constitutional principles and/or historical reasoning skills?
  • What adjustments might you make to the timeframe, guiding questions, and/or instructional activities for it to suit your classes?
  • How will these adjustments positively change the student outcome for understanding and using these principles and/or skills?

What’s Next

Before you engage in the assessment for this module, you will participate in a discussion with the course instructor and other course participants.

For our discussion, we will reflect on the following questions:

  • Explain what these resources reveal about due process and civil liberties during different times of conflict.
  • Describe how these resources help in understanding the similarities and differences between how civil liberties have been addressed or challenged during times of conflict.
  • Explain which resources helped you most in answering the guiding question: How did federal wartime policies challenge civil liberties from World War I to the present day? Why?
  • How might you change or adjust those resources to suit your classes? Are there any resources you feel like could be added?