The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


January 9, 2010

Jim Stone, guest columnist: Paranoia shouldn’t impede freedom

The afternoon of Dec. 30 brought news that eight American CIA agents and four Canadian soldiers at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Afghanistan had been killed by a suicide bomber.

The attack culminated in a dining room or the gym at the base. With each loss of those who serve our country, we may honor their sacrifice by considering the nature of the missions they perform, the many risks they accept, and the burdens imposed upon their families.

As often as we do so, we less seldom consider the “mission” and the risks to civilian citizens which are also imposed upon us by the existence and the perpetuation of a free and open democratic society.

The terrible loss of eight CIA agents is an infrequent occurrence for the CIA. The CIA has had 90 stars on its Memorial Wall at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va., representing CIA agents killed in the line of duty. Despite frequent dangerous encounters, these servants of freedom have been elusive targets for America’s enemies. Yet even elusive targets, protected by the maximum of resources, have vulnerabilities — perhaps, in this case, including treachery.

Civilians also have vulnerabilities. Terrorists and other criminals have always exploited vulnerabilities. Why do we lock our doors and windows? It is not because a determined assailant or thief cannot breach a lock. It is because they usually seek a vulnerability — perhaps of one of our neighbors who is less careful.

The most repressive societies and tyrannical governments have never eliminated the vulnerabilities of their citizens. Our society, as long as it remains a society that continues the heritage of our founders, has even greater vulnerabilities to criminals. We strive to reduce those vulnerabilities while continuing to be a free and open democratic society.

We accepted the ubiquitous use of tamper-resistant packaging after the 1982 Tylenol tampering murders. Fortunately, that adjustment was effective without coincident constitutional conflicts.

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