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WNET to Air Columbia University's Fred Friendly Seminar on "Liberty and Security in an Age of Terrorism," Dec. 18

As part of Columbia University's 250th Anniversary celebration, the Fred Friendly Seminar "Liberty and Security in an Age of Terrorism," will be broadcast on Thirteen/WNET on Thursday, December 18, at 10:00 p.m. The 60-minute discussion underscores the very difficult, but real, dilemmas facing policymakers and protectors in a post-9/11 climate.

The Fred Friendly Seminar participants, including Columbia University President and First Amendment scholar Lee C. Bollinger, ACLU President Nadine Strossen, former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White, and Patriot Act author Viet Dinh, recently met at the University's Miller Theatre to videotape a discussion based on a hypothetical scenario.

The moderator, Columbia law professor Michael Dorf, begins with the following hypothetical dilemma: as water pours through your bathroom ceiling, you accompany the superintendent to the apartment above yours. No one is home, and as you both enter, you find the wall covered with photos of major buildings marked with arrows pointing to what appear to be structural weak spots. Do you tell anyone what you have just seen? Does it matter that, according to the superintendent, the occupants of the apartment are Arab students? As the hypothetical plays out, the panelists ponder these and other questions ranging from whether to contact the FBI, to due process for suspected terrorists.

This Fred Friendly Seminar preceded the scheduled colloquium by Columbia faculty and other noted scholars from around the world, entitled "Constitutions, Democracy and the Rule of Law," for the opening of the University's 250th anniversary celebration.

"Participating in the Fred Friendly Seminar was a stimulating experience and a terrific way to begin Columbia University's 250th anniversary celebration," says President Lee C. Bollinger. "In the aftermath of September 11th and with the enactment of the USA Patriot Act, the need to consider civil liberties in the light of security concerns is paramount. Programs like the Fred Friendly Seminar provide a stimulating method for exploring subjects dealing with sensitive and complex legal and ethical dilemmas. I am delighted that Columbia was able to be a part of this national discussion and bring it via television to millions of viewers."

In the aftermath of Watergate, the late Fred Friendly, a pioneering CBS News producer, and later Edward R. Murrow professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, developed the Seminar's format to encourage constructive debate between the news media and the judiciary. The Fred Friendly Seminars at the Journalism School has produced programs that have appeared on public television over the past 20 years. The seminars bring together prominent leaders in all fields to discuss critical issues of the day through role-playing and hypothetical situations. While the moderator is familiar with the script, it is not revealed to the panelists who energetically project themselves into the hypothetical situation and struggle with perplexing and complex issues.

"The scenarios here are never black and white, but rather shades of gray," says Ruth Friendly, vice president and executive editor of the Fred Friendly Seminars. "Our goal is to illuminate the dilemmas and hard choices that arise in thinking through that delicate balance of liberty and security, and to pull our viewers right into the dialogue so they too wrestle with the issues. I think this program does just that."

Participants in this seminar include: Floyd Abrams, First Amendment attorney; Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia University president; Jack Cloonan, former FBI agent; Viet Dinh, architect of the USA Patriot Act; James Gilmore, former Virginia Governor; James Kallstrom, senior advisor for counter-terrorism to Governor Pataki; Judge Alex Kozinski, U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit; Kate Martin, director, Center for National Security Studies; Nadine Strossen, ALCU President; Jan Ting, former assistant commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization Service; Mary Jo White, former U.S. Attorney, Southern District of N.Y.; and Fareed Zakaria, editor, Newsweek International. Michael Dorf, Columbia Law professor, moderates the panel.

Through countless seminars and more than 100 television programs, the Fred Friendly Seminars have proven uniquely effective in exploring subjects such as the First Amendment and constitutional issues; libel; judiciary and public policy; ethics in America; medicine and health care; and privacy, journalism and democracy. The fascination comes, in part, from seeing panelists struggle to find their way through a thicket of wrenching decisions, and it compels viewers to confront these difficult issues in their own minds.

"Liberty and Security in an Age of Terrorism," will be broadcast on Thirteen/WNET on Thursday, December 18, at 10:00 p.m. For more information about Fred Friendly Seminars, visit

Published: Dec 22, 2003
Last modified: Jan 10, 2005

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