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Peer Review

Law and Liberty in a "Secure Homeland"

by Kenneth Mentor


Overall Numeric Rating:

4.5 stars
Content Quality: 4.75 stars
Effectiveness: 3.75 stars
Ease of Use: 4.25 starsstar
Reviewed: Feb 16, 2009 by Criminal Justice Editorial Board
Overview: This site provides links to Internet sites which are related to civil liberties in general, the USA Patriot Act, Homeland Security, and civil liberties after 9/11. The site offers a critical perspective on issues and controversies that focus on the efforts by the United States government to respond to is today commonly referred to as “Homeland Security.” The site includes "Reflection Questions" that encourage visitors to think about issues and come to their own conclusions regarding the restructuring of governmental agencies, the altering of civil rights and civil liberties, and an increased level of surveillance of American citizens and others around the world. The user should be aware, however that the perspective of the linked sources is somewhat biased against the Patriot Act and other U.S. government actions in regarding civil liberties.
Type of Material: A collection
Recommended Uses: • Homework • To stimulate class and online discussions
Technical Requirements: Browser, Java, Adobe reader, Flash player, Sound card
Identify Major Learning Goals: • To provides access to information on a range of issues related to “Homeland Security,” “The Patriot Act,” and “Civil Liberties.” • To empower visitors to the web site who are interested in “Homeland Security,” The Patriot Act,” and “Civil Liberties” to be informed of issues affecting Americans and to encourage critical thinking of the issues presented.
Target Student Population: • High school • College General Education • Lower and upper level college majoring in the social sciences • Lower and upper level college students majoring in political science • Students studying law
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Browser, Java, Adobe reader, Flash player, sound card, internet computer skills.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: • The site is broken into five categories: Introduction, Civil Liberties, Homeland Security, Why This – Why Now, and Challenges to The Patriot Act with a wealth of links that support the page topic • Each section of the site contains links to other web sites that support the general subject of the page and take the viewer to additional material to support the information gathering of the viewer • Each section of the site contains reflection questions that can be used to enhance one’s understanding of the topic or can be incorporated into course assignments • The links that are included takes the viewer to a variety of web sites that provide information from a variety of perspectives and includes information ranging from personal opinion to research-based material
Concerns: Sources are overwhelmingly anti-government, perhaps deservedly so, never the less, it would be useful to at least link the user to sources in support of the policies and actions under discussion, so that the user could easily compare arguments from alternative viewpoints. A random check of 37 links resulted in 16 of the links not being accessible or no longer available at the URL. There is no indication that the site is being maintained and updated.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 3.75 stars
Strengths: • The topics as presented are in a logical order and allow for progressive information gathering on topics that are related • The breath of material that is available through this site makes it ideal for teachers/instructors to develop assignments that support lessons which focus on the social sciences, political science, history, and law • The user can quickly obtain an understanding of the far reaching consequences of the cumulative effects of some seemingly unimportant policy changes and government actions.
Concerns: • The site is a collection of web sites, many which contain links that are no longer active and provide a central location of material that already exists on other web sites • The concepts presented on the site are arranged in an order to challenge the thinking of the viewer in a manner which may represent the view of the site developer • By not including more pro government sources, the user may not appreciate the strength of convictions held by those who support the Patriot Act and similar acts, which alter civil liberties.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.25 stars
Strengths: • The site is easy to navigate and explore • Overall, the visual appearance of the site is pleasant and it includes copies of posters developed by The Propaganda Remix Project
Concerns: • There is a lack of interactivity due to the site being primarily a collection of web links • There are no instructions or guides provided to assist the viewer in locating specific information of interest • Some pages include large numbers of broken links especially pages 3, 4, and 5 where nearly 50% of the links are no longer functional.

Other Issues and Comments: This site is among this reviewer’s favorites based on its utility for college level course work.