The Price of Freedom

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-09-24

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have woken us up to the fact that we are at war. It is a war of freedom vs. totalitarianism and terror. In that way it is similar to previous wars we have fought, but that is perhaps the only similarity.

In a war, there is no middle ground. On the one side is freedom: freedom to travel; freedom to speak and publish; and freedom to invest, start businesses and purchase goods. And lest we forget, freedom to create, store, send and receive data. It is the exercise of these freedoms that has made the United States the most economically prosperous and powerful country in the world.

On the other side is the absence of those freedoms, sacrificed to the intimidation of terror, leading inevitably to backwardness economically, intellectually and spiritually.

There is no doubt which path we all must follow or, ultimately, which will prevail. But the journey will be of indeterminate length, and we have to expect that the disaster we have already experienced is far from the full price that we will have to pay.

There will be questions about changes to accepted privacy standards in the name of tracking down terrorist cells. Such decisions should be taken very carefully, lest we give up the very freedoms that the terrorists seek to deny us.

As the struggle continues, we have to expect attacks on everything that is vital to our society. It is logical to assume that attacks on data—the lifeblood of our economy—are to be feared, and prepared for. IT pros will play a more important role than ever in ensuring the conduct of business and the health of our economy.

IT has always been at the forefront of securing data, and IT professionals whose companies had offices in the World Trade Center complex proved that by and large they had solid disaster recovery plans in place. IT must continue to update those plans to correspond to the most present threats. IT should also remain alert to technologies that can enhance security and thereby preserve life and property.

But we cannot defend ourselves by purely technological means. We cant be deluded to think that technology can solve problems that are of a human and moral dimension. In recent years, we have been concerned with cryptography, biological weapons and space-based missile defense systems. While those concerns might be well-founded, they have also tended to distract us from the obvious: human evil abetted by human carelessness.

As we embark on this endeavor, we join you, our readers, in remembering the innocent victims, the brave pilots, flight attendants, passengers, firefighters and police officers. We urge all to honor them by taking up a role, large or small, in this, the latest struggle for freedom.

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