There is an important debate taking place in the United States over the Bush administration's resolve to conduct its "war on terror" versus the need of the media to be the nation's conscience. Time magazine in its latest issue calls it "the tension between liberty and security".
That subject has arisen many times in the short history of the United States. It was never really resolved before in the sense that no lasting conclusions were reached that are applicable during different eras. Instead, a general understanding has prevailed whereby the media have acquired a permanent role as the watchdog of the people to ensure that there remains a healthy balance between liberty and security.
This time, the issue is the government's need to wage the "war on terror" and the US media's responsibility to report ostensibly unconstitutional or extraconstitutional actions. The administration of President George W Bush, as expected, holds to its right to do whatever is necessary to protect the American people against global terrorism, while the media have decided that they have been too deferential to the government's claim of its rights to wage the war, and now should scrutinize and report its actions vigorously in the name of protecting liberty and ensuring that the system of checks and balances, which the US constitution has so carefully established, is not violated by the executive branch.
US media ensnared in liberty vs security debate
Ehsan Ahrari, Asia Times Online, July 4, 2006
The article quoted above presents a nice overview of the current conflict between civil liberties and security needs of the US. Frankly, in my opinion, this conflict is perceived rather than real.
Then, of course, there is this whole issue of how you define the concepts involved. Of course, if "security" is taken to mean "the security of the ruling elite" then the whole discussion takes on a whole new meaning.