"Spies, Traitors and Saboteurs" hit Philadelphia

Thursday, March 31, 2011

If you hear about some government authority trying to protect you from harm, you'd probably react favorably. But what about when those efforts impact your personal privacy?

That's the question "Spies, Traitors and Saboteurs - Fear and Freedom in America" attempts to answer.

The exhibit was created by the National Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. And it's on loan to the National Constitution Center through May 30th.

The exhibit explores that line between safety and civil rights, and you'll quickly see how that line may float, depending on current events and the nation's collective mood.

For example, after the 9/11 attacks, Congress passed the Patriot Act, which permitted some wiretaps without prior court approval.

Subsequently, the law was modified. But the situation typifies what happens in the aftermath of an attack and later, when cooler heads have opportunity to reconsider what government has done.

You'll see a newsreel from some 90 years ago, when Woodrow Wilson's administration was rounding up non-citizens without warrants.

Thousands were deported in the name of national security, but ultimately, the government was forced to stop the practice.

Along your way through the exhibit, you're encouraged to take part in a number of instant polls, where you weigh in on issues pitting national security versus personal liberty.

To see this exhibit, you buy a regular museum admission ticket and then pay a supplemental charge of $3.50 to add on the special attraction.

This exhibit may contain elements younger children might find shocking or unsettling. But for those 12 and over, it's an opportunity to open a discussion on important rights and safety issues every citizen ought to think about.

You'll find it as provocative as it is interesting.

For more information, you may phone the National Constitution Center at 215-409-6600, or log onto the website http://www.constitutioncenter.org where you may also purchase advance tickets.

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