The Patriot Act. Those three words always elicit an emotional response, regardless of political persuasion.
Officially known as the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001,” this law gave the Federal government unprecedented power to combat terrorism.
It was passed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks as a kneejerk reaction to a complex problem.
In 1755, Benjamin Franklin penned a letter on behalf of the Pennsylvania Assembly to the colonial Governor. The letter included a famous quote that has been paraphrased hundreds of different ways:
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
Despite being two and a half centuries old, this phrase perfectly captures the problem with the Patriot Act. We gave up our fundamental liberties in exchange for security, and now we are left with neither.
Right now, the GOP is conspiring to renew the Patriot Act as written!
The Patriot Act is the most unconstitutional piece of legislation ever signed into law and now that it is about to expire, Mitch McConnell and the GOP want to renew it
We all know about how the Patriot Act has been abused. Both Presidents Bush and Obama used the law to gut the Fourth Amendment; our right to privacy. The Patriot Act ushered in more than a decade of warrantless wiretapping, the spying and monitoring of citizens’ Internet behaviors, and a complete watering-down of the concept of ‘probable cause.’
By now you’ve also probably heard of Edward Snowden. He was the NSA contractor who leaked a whole trove of documents detailing how the Federal government was interpreting the Patriot Act.
I don’t care what you think of Snowden. You can call him a traitor or a patriot; it doesn’t matter to me. But regardless of your personal feelings, nothing changes the fact that he revealed what can only be described as unconstitutional government programs. You can’t put the cat back in the bag.
We now know that the NSA is monitoring your phone calls and has the ability to monitor who you call, when/where you call them, and for how long. The Federal government, under the Patriot Act, can tap your phone without even getting a warrant. You can be held indefinitely in jail under the auspices of “fighting terrorism” and as long as government agents allege a connection to terrorism, your Fourth Amendment rights go right out the window.
Deep within the Patriot Act is what is known as Section 215. This is the portion of the law that has given the Federal Government wide powers to spy on American citizens.
Whenever we bring up the Patriot Act, people inevitably email us and say something along the lines of “If you have nothing to hide, then there’s nothing to worry about.”
The Fourth Amendment was designed for the express purpose of protecting us against this kind of probing. It doesn’t matter whether you have something to hide. The government has no right to collect your phone records, monitor your Internet activity, or investigate you without a warrant.
Why am I bringing up a 14-year old law? Well, Congress is preparing to reauthorize the Patriot Act and as the bill stands now, NOTHING will be done to rein in these domestic spying programs. That’s right: Mitch McConnell introduced a carbon-copy version of the Patriot Act just days ago. This cannot be allowed to happen!