The Patriot Act was passed as a temporary measure in response to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York. Congress embedded into the bill a sunset clause intended to temper long-term loss of constitutional rights by Americans.
But like almost every great expansion of government, the Patriot Act refuses to die. It just keeps churning on… allowing the NSA to spy and eavesdrop on everyday Americans without the necessity of an old-fashioned, judge-generated warrant.
This year, civil libertarians were finally going to kill it. With the Snowden revelations and the collection of Americans’ phone records, the agency’s spy program was nearly out for the count. Surely, the June 1 deadline to renew the Act would be the day we’d put this foolishness to rest.
But Paris terrorists just gave the NSA 16 reasons to keep this atrocity alive…
The acts of terrorism in Paris, which killed 12 at Charlie Hebdo magazine and four in a kosher market, have breathed new life into NSA programs that spy on the public. Expect to be hearing experts, bureaucrats, and associated academics drone on and on about how we need the NSA to protect us now more than ever.
Another Excuse for Big Gov’t
Once begun, government programs never go away. They create constituencies that owe their livings to the budgets of these programs. And since someone needs to cover these agencies, journalists have new jobs, too. The police state apparatus constructed after 9-11 has only grown over the past.
After last Wednesday’s shooting, the former head of the NSA, Michael Hayden, said on MSNBC, “I wouldn’t be surprised if French services picked up cellphones associated with the attack and asked Americans: ‘Where have you seen these phones active globally?’”
Hayden also used the cable TV appearance to promote the collection of metadata on all cellphone traffic worldwide. Metadata tells the government from whom and to whom every call originates. In the past, law enforcement could collect this data on criminals and terror suspects, but today it’s collected on everyone (regardless of your likelihood to commit a crime).
Cheerleaders for spying on innocent Americans are out in force.
Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican of Florida, told The Hill last week: “It reminds us of our need to have at our disposal multiple and effective intelligence tools that allow us to gather information that could prevent an attack. It’s a reminder that even as I’m speaking to you, there are capable individuals around the world, and potentially even here within the United States, who are plotting to carry out attacks to kill innocent Americans. We have to have the tools at our disposal, to the extent possible, to identify these people and prevent those attacks from happening.”
This data collected, retained, analyzed, and warehoused can predict behavior. And as Edward Snowden revealed… the data has been used and abused in unintended ways.
If this data is good at stopping terrorists, why did the Paris shootings happen at all? We lose our privacy and freedoms, but the terrorists still strike.
Bottom line: Treat criminals and terror suspects as criminals and terrorists. But a government that treats all citizens as such looks more like a national prison than a free country.
Your eyes on the hill,