NEW YORK— Free speech is alive and well in the United States, but other civil liberties are suffering in the government’s war against terrorism. That was the consensus of panelists at a Dec. 1 public forum titled “Free Speech and the Constitution in an Age of Terrorism,” at the Fordham University School of Law.

“In the area of pure speech, the U.S. continues to be fabulously free, the government neither censors nor punishes political speech based on newsworthy accurate facts,” said Adam Liptak, national legal correspondent for the
New York Times. “Criticism and debate are robust.”

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), an alumnus of Fordham Law School, said, “From an American historical perspective, we are light years ahead of where we were 100 or 50 years ago with regard to free speech.”

Despite the flattering assessment of the state of free speech in the United States., the entire panel, which also included University of Chicago Professor Geoffrey Stone, J.D., and Fordham Law Professor Thomas Lee, J.D., expressed concern about new wartime policies that appear to infringe upon civil liberties in exchange for stronger national security.

The panelists pointed to the USA Patriot Act as an example of this cultural trend. Opponents of the act argue that it provides the government with sweeping discretion to monitor, search and detain citizens, while insulating itself from oversight. This wartime culture has also heightened the level of government secrecy surrounding the deportation of immigrants and the detainment of person termed “enemy combatants.”

“There are many things that the U.S. could have done after 9/11 to have made the country as safe as it is today without having to enact the Patriot Act,” said Stone, the Harry Kalven Jr. Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago. “One of the dangers from the kind of thinking that goes on during wartime is that the restriction of civil liberties is a cheap politically expedient way of appearing to do something which has historically proven to be rarely effective.”

Fordham University School of Law was founded in 1905, and has more than 14,000 alumni practicing in all 50 states and throughout the world. Over the past 20 years, Fordham Law School has secured a place as a national leader in public interest law, legal ethics and human rights law.