Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz said in an interview aired Sunday that fears over terrorism shouldn't be used to deny rights to Syrian refugees seeking to enter the country.
"Every time we have any kind of threat, the first thing we do is try to compromise our constitutional rights," Dershowitz said on "The Cats Roundtable"
on AM 970 in New York.
"It started right after the American Revolution, when we passed the Alien and Sedition Act because we were afraid of France," he told host John Catsimatidis.
GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump has called for a moratorium on admitting Muslims while the government "figures out what the hell is going on."
Such a "pause" might be acceptable as long as the purpose was to ensure the vetting process is working, Dershowitz said.
"If we're talking about weeks in order to make sure we get our computers in order, make sure we have ways of checking, I don’t think anybody can complain about that," he said.
Last Sunday, former Department of Homeland Security head Tom Ridge told Catsimatidi
a pause might help.
Ridge "really has America's security interests at heart," Dershowitz said, "But if what starts as temporary becomes long-term and it turns into a policy of excluding people based on religion, I think creates a problem."
The Supreme Court is unlikely to uphold a ban on people based on religion, he added.
"The Constitution is pretty firm about no religious tests and about freedom of speech," he said. "Of course it also gives great latitude of who we let into the country. So it’s not easy to predict how the Supreme Court will definitely come out, but I think if it were a blatant prohibition of all Muslims for a long period of time, I think the Supreme Court would strike that down as unconstitutional."
As for surveillance of Muslims inside the country, Dershowitz said it would have to be limited to things that already are public.
"If you have a mosque that’s open to everybody, a synagogue that’s open to everybody, a church that’s open to everybody, I have no problem with the FBI sitting in the back an listening to what you’re saying to everybody," he said. "The same thing is true with Facebook posting or social media postings. If you’re opening them up to everybody, the FBI ought to be looking at those things."
The same would not apply to a personal email sent to a friend or spouse, he said.
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