News Outlets Examine Political Leaders’ Responses To COVID-19 Pandemic, Impacts On Political Systems, Civil Rights, National Security

AP: Dismantling democracy? Virus used as excuse to quell dissent
“…In ex-communist Eastern Europe and elsewhere, populist leaders are introducing harsh measures including uncontrolled cellphone surveillance of their citizens and lengthy jail sentences for those who flout lockdown decrees. … In times of national emergency, countries often take steps that rights activists see as curtailing civil liberties, such as increased surveillance, curfews and restrictions on travel, or limiting freedom of expression…” (Stojanovic et al., 3/31).

The Atlantic: The Problem With Being ‘at War’ With the Coronavirus
“…By choosing to frame the pandemic in military terms, governments are clearly trying to communicate the gravity of this public-health crisis — one that requires the type of state intervention and personal sacrifice most nations haven’t experienced in peacetime. But drawing this imperfect parallel can have the unintended consequence of causing fear and panic too. … If the aim of such imagery is to compel the public to act in the national interest, framing this crisis in war terms may achieve just the opposite. In this ‘war,’ after all, most people aren’t being asked to mobilize; they are being asked to stay home…” (Serhan, 3/31).

New York Times: For Autocrats, and Others, Coronavirus Is a Chance to Grab Even More Power
“…As the coronavirus pandemic brings the world to a juddering halt and anxious citizens demand action, leaders across the globe are invoking executive powers and seizing virtually dictatorial authority with scant resistance. Governments and rights groups agree that these extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. States need new powers to shut their borders, enforce quarantines and track infected people. Many of these actions are protected under international rules, constitutional lawyers say. But critics say some governments are using the public health crisis as cover to seize new powers that have little to do with the outbreak, with few safeguards to ensure that their new authority will not be abused…” (Gebrekidan, 3/30).

POLITICO: Coronavirus rattles America’s national security priesthood
“If the U.S. foreign policy establishment were a high school cafeteria, the popular kids would be the terrorism and nuclear weapons analysts. And the global health specialists would be eating tater tots in the corner with the band geeks. The coronavirus outbreak is upending that social hierarchy as it ravages economies and societies around the world — making an irrefutable case for a cause that once struggled to get a hearing in the clubby national security priesthood…” (Toosi, 3/28).

Reuters: U.S. spies find coronavirus spread in China, North Korea, Russia hard to chart
“As U.S. spy agencies seek to assemble a precise picture of the world’s coronavirus outbreaks, they are finding serious gaps in their ability to assess the situation in China, Russia and North Korea, according to five U.S. government sources familiar with the intelligence reporting. The agencies also have limited insight into the full impact of the pandemic in Iran, although information on infections and deaths among the ruling class and public is becoming more available on official and social media, two sources said…” (Hosenball/Landay, 3/30).

Vox: World leaders who denied the coronavirus’s danger made us all less safe
“Millions of people out of work. Nationwide lockdowns keeping billions at home. Health care systems on the brink of collapse. And millions — plural — at risk of dying. These are the consequences not only of the coronavirus outbreak but also what happens when world leaders deny its severity. Their actions, or rather inactions, have made the pandemic worse and all of us less safe. From the United States to China to Iran to Italy, politicians facing life-or-death decisions early on in the outbreak minimized the global health crisis. They wasted precious time fighting reality, not the disease. And the results have been deadly…” (Ward, 3/30).