I was a law student once. There’s a fair bit of tedium in reading case reports, but I always enjoyed reading judgements by Lord Denning MR. Tim Dunlop over at Road to Surfdom thinks a citation from a recent judgement by Lord Hoffman is the quote of the year. Lord Hoffman thinks that over-reaching intrusions into the liberty by the subject are a greater threat to Western civilisation than terrorism.
I think my old friend Lord Denning MR said it well:
In some parts of the world national security has on occasions been used as an excuse for all sorts of infringements of individual liberty. But not in England.
R v Secretary of State, Ex parte Hosenball  1 WLR 766, at 783
I also think these these reflections of Lord Steyn, currently a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, are most worthwhile:
The most powerful democracy is detaining hundreds of suspected foot soldiers of the Taliban in a legal black hole at the United States naval base at Guantanamo Bay, where they await trial on capital charges by military tribunals. This episode must be put in context. Democracies must defend themselves. Democracies are entitled to try officers and soldiers of enemy forces for war crimes. But it is a recurring theme in history that in times of war, armed conflict, or perceived national danger, even liberal democracies adopt measures infringing human rights in ways that are wholly disproportionate to the crisis. One tool at hand is detention without charge or trial, that is, executive detention. Ill conceived rushed legislation is passed granting excessive powers to executive governments which compromise the rights and liberties of individuals beyond the exigencies of the situation. Often the loss of liberty is permanent. Executive branches of government, faced with a perceived emergency, often resort to excessive measures. The litany of grave abuses of power by liberal democratic governments is too long to recount, but in order to understand and to hold governments to account we do well to take into account the circles of history.
It seems to me that Lord Steyn is taking a most balanced and properly judicious view here. He goes on:
Even in modern times terrible injustices have been perpetrated in the name of security on thousands who had no effective recourse to law. Too often courts of law have denied the writ of the rule of law with only the most perfunctory examination. In the context of a war on terrorism without any end in prospect this is a sombre scene for human rights. But there is the caution that unchecked abuse of power begets ever greater abuse of power. And judges do have the duty, even in times of crisis, to guard against an unprincipled and exorbitant executive response.
What does it profit a society that defends itself at the cost of sacrificing the principles of liberty which ought to be paramount?