Daily Trust

Between human rights and national security

Such has been written since President Buhari said that National Interest/Security over-rides individual human rights in any progressive society. First and foremost, let me buttress what a Nation-State could do in order to maintain its national interest/security. When it became obvious that the future king (Prince William) of Great Britain will one day have a half-brother, who is not only an Arab from Egypt, but also a Moslem, Princess Diana had a ‘motor accident’ that killed her and her unborn Arab child. While I was a student at University of Wisconsin, in 1992 a group of Americans in Taco Texas, during Reagan’s administration, declared their own sovereignty. That they do not subscribe to the Constitution of the United State of American (USA). We woke up one morning to see their camp razed and burnt down completely. The ABS, and CBS television stations simply reported the news. After that, no question was asked. No Civil Liberty Organization (CLO) or Civil Society Organization (CSO) raised any issue again.

In Israel, according to the 1949 Press Accord, The Chief of Staff and the Minister of Defence appoints a Brigadier General from the Intelligence, with a staff of over seventy military officers and civilian employees who interact with the Press on issues bordering on national security/interest. The team is based in Tel Aviv, and in Jerusalem. According to the accord, newspapers, radios, television stations and even foreign correspondents most not carry/publish items that undermine its (Israeli) national security. Again, we have seen how national security overshadows the need to know and/or the need to tell the public. After the Tuesday, September 11, 2001 (9/11) bombing of the World Trade Centre, in New York, and the Pentagon (Ministry of Defence) in Washington DC, only scanty information and pictures were shown about the Pentagon bombing. The US Press did not publicize the clearing of the affected building and its subsequent reconstruction because it was classified. The US Press did not betray their country’s national interest, and concentrated only on World Trade Centre.

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Let us look at the USA democracy which this country copied. There is rule of law, civil liberty, and fundamental human rights in the USA. But in all, the National Interest/Security over-rides all the individual human rights through the legislation of so many laws. The USA as the oldest presidential democracy has stepped on so many ‘toes’ for the sake of National Security/Interest.

Firstly, in December 2005, the New York Times reported that the National Security Agency was tapping into telephone calls of American citizens without a warrant. Prior to this, only foreigners’ phone calls were tapped.

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Secondly, in the years after 9/11, American government has kidnapped, detained and tortured numerous people. The American Government continues to claim that it has power to designate anyone in the USA as “enemy combatant” and detain such person without charges, for the sake of national security and national interest.

Thirdly, despite the Freedom of Information Act, the USA has used the claim of State Secrets to stymie judicial review of many government policies. It uses the Espionage Act of 1917 just to stop journalists from exposing questionable, illegal, and unconstitutional conducts by Security Agencies.

Fourthly, the No-Fly list was established to keep track of American citizens the government prohibits from traveling overseas and/or foreigners coming into the USA because they have been classified as security risks, and for the overall national interest. And, the American government agencies, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of Defence, etc had conducted their own spying on innocent citizens in America for the interest of USA national security.

Furthermore, it is on records that immediately after the 9/11 episode, the US government gathered and detained many innocent people through the abuse of a narrow federal technicality that permits the arrest and brief detention of ‘material witnesses’ or those who have important information about a crime.

In addition, President George W. Bush signed into law The USA Patriot Act in October 2001, after the 9/11. This is an Act of Congress with its ten-letter abbreviation (USA PATRIOT). Its full meaning being “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism” Act of 2001. The Act gave new powers to the USA Department of Justice, The National Security Agency and other Federal Agencies, on domestic and international surveillance of electronic communications because of USA national interest.

Similarly, it was an open secret that during the George W. Bush administration, the USA government had used a provision in the Patriot Act to deny scholars and academicians with perceived political views against his administration from entering or leaving the USA. Right now the US government has engaged in outright censorship and pre-screening of Scientific Articles before publication. (See Punch Newspaper of Monday, September 4, 2017, page 23 in an article titled “Nigeria: Political restructuring or economic restructuring?” by Sampson Ikemitang.

Finally, the USA has been used to illustrate and drive home the fact that despite its high respect for individual human rights, the overall interest of the country is supreme. However, in handling the National Interest of Nigeria, our government must recognize the need to strengthen adherence to the rule of law by all citizens irrespective of religion, ethnicity, and professional callings. In strengthening the rule of law, the present government must ensure that the pillars of our criminal justice system, (law enforcement, community policing, penal systems, prosecution, and the Court) must all be functioning properly and effectively.  Thus any individual, or/and any group that poses threat to our corporate existence as a country must be dealt with decisively, effectively, and promptly  for the interest of the country’s National Security.

 

Col. Bako (Rtd), a former military governor of Akwa lbom State, wrote this piece from Kano