Anti-Terror Vs. Anti-Pandemic:
Guest-blogging over at Balkinization, Daniel Solove criticizes the government for paying too much attention to anti-terrorism measures and not enough attention to the possibility of a pandemic that could kill millions of people. He writes:
  The most devastating national security issue is, in my opinion, the possibility of a pandemic. But there is little attention to this issue. Sadly, it's because all of the folks crying out to protect our security are so myopically focused on terrorism that they're neglecting to think rationally about where the most likely risks are. . . .
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  . . . [I]nstead of talking about the usual trade-offs between security and civil liberties, perhaps we should begin talking about the trade-offs when we expend so many resources addressing one security issue while neglecting other security issues. Pandemics are national security issues too, but sadly "national security" appears to be co-opted as a synonym for "terrorism prevention."
  I strongly agree with Solove that the government should be paying more attention to the possibility of a pandemic. But I'm not sure I see the argument that the reason for the relative lack of attention is the government's focus on anti-terrorism measures. Why does government focus on anti-terrorism measures lead to less focus on minimizing the risk of a pandemic? Perhaps the funding for the two might go into some similar pots, but I wonder if this might cut both ways: perhaps more antiterrorism funding could lead to more money being spent on average for pandemic issues, rather than less. This is pure speculation, as I don't know how the two issues are linked either as budgetary or personnel matters, but it's not clear to me that attention to one takes away attention from the other.

  To the extent that Solove is making a point about what topics are receiving lots of public attention rather than government attention — something that does set up more of an either/or relationship — his point seems valid but directed at the wrong target. If there has been too much public attention on the tradeoff between terrorism and civil liberties relative to other threats, then presumably the fault is less the government's (which does not invite such attention, obviously) than the media's. The tradeoff between security and civil liberties has received a tremendous amount of public attention because the media has decided to give it a tremendous amount of attention; the risk if a pandemic has received little public attention at least in part because the press doesn't like to report on it nearly as much. If the amount of the reporting is out of whack with the reality of the threats, then one place to begin is by better matching the former to the latter.