Eric A. Posner and Adrian Vermeule ["Judicial Cliches on Terrorism," op-ed, Aug. 8] would have us believe, without discussion or show of proof, that security and liberty exist in a zero-sum equation and that any increase in security must be accompanied by a corresponding decrease in the liberties protected by our Constitution. They said, "A well-functioning government will contract civil liberties as threats increase." A look at the oppressive regimes of the Middle East, which allow few civil liberties yet still experience terrorism, shows that such an equation bears little relation to reality.

For instance, installing equipment at U.S. ports to scan for weapons of mass destruction would have no effect on civil liberties yet would significantly reduce the risk of a terrorist act. Ensuring the nonproliferation of nuclear material throughout the world also would have a depressive effect on the risk of terrorism but no corresponding effect on our constitutional rights. Nevertheless, neither of these actions has been implemented adequately, if at all.

Americans should not be asked to sacrifice civil liberties as one of the first steps toward security. And they certainly should not be asked to do so before a number of less-intrusive methods to reduce risk are adopted and implemented.


New York


Eric A. Posner and Adrian Vermeule did an excellent job of spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt, but they did nothing to counter the judicial cliches they claimed were absurd. They belittled judges for saying that the terrorists will have won if we give up our liberties, writing: "A failure to alter any policies in response to a successful terrorist attack is, by contrast, a sign of weakness and paralysis; that would be a victory for the terrorists."

So if the United States remains a free country with all of the rights enumerated by the Constitution unabridged, the terrorists will have won?


Joppa, Md.