Although members of the government are sloughing off the revelation of infringements on the nation’s privacy, private citizens are furious. And, it all started with the Patriot Act, which began the end of one of our most precious Constitutional rights, the right to privacy.
The illegal tapping of our phones in the case of Verizon, and now the more egregious snooping into the social media companies, is unacceptable. It is so outrageous that the few members of Congress who were aware of “PRISM,” were sworn to secrecy. The government says it’s because they didn’t want to make possible terrorists aware of the program. But, the truth is, they didn’t want to make the American public mindful that their own government was spying on them. And, the information they gather can be used to influence the nation’s citizens in a variety of ways, from proposed legislation to political issues.
None of this would have been allowed without the passage of the Patriot Act.
The origin of the Patriot Act was a result of the attacks on 9/11/2001. George W. Bush signed the measure into law on October 26, 2001. Patriot Act is actually an acronym. “Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.”
The acronym is as vague as the actual law is permissive. Legal organizations have stretched the words of the provision to their ultimate limits. The only reason Congress acted so quickly to pass the provision was because the Bush Administration took advantage of a cowardly attack on our shores, and created a culture of fear instead of confidence for our safety and the prevention of another attack. The easiest way to control humanity is through fear tactics.
What were the initial intentions of the act? It was intended to significantly weakene restrictions on law enforcement agencies’ gathering of intelligence within the United States; expande the Secretary of the Treasury’s authority to regulate financial transactions, particularly those involving foreign individuals and entities; and broadene the discretion of law enforcement and immigration authorities in detaining and deporting immigrants suspected of terrorism-related acts. The act also expanded the definition of terrorism to include domestic terrorism, thus enlarging the number of activities to which the USA PATRIOT Act’s expanded law enforcement powers can be applied.
From its very inception it had critics. Civil rights and human rights organizations immediately saw situations where the law could be used in manners not intended by those who penned it.
Opponents of the law have criticized its authorization of indefinite detentions of immigrants; searches through which law enforcement officers search a home or business without the owner’s or the occupant’s permission or knowledge; the expanded use of National Security Letters, which allows the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to search telephone, e-mail, and financial records without a court order, and the expanded access of law enforcement agencies to business records, including library and financial records. Since its passage, several legal challenges have been brought against the act, and Federal courts have ruled that a number of provisions are unconstitutional.
Much of the original bill was supposed to expire in 2005, but Bush decided he wanted to maintain control and urged Congress to re-approve it. It was no more than a ‘rubber stamp’ vote. On May 26, 2011, President Obama signed another extension, which he promised not to do.
All agencies of federal, state, and local law enforcement have used interpretations of the act’s wording to invade the privacy of personal information and action. The FBI has been known to even check library records.
No one in the Congress of the United States was intelligent enough to see into the near future and be aware that provisions in the Patriot Act would allow the government to legally use electronic surveillance to invade the lives of American citizens.
George W. Bush once said about terrorists, and, eventually the nations who opposed the invasion of Iraq, “they hate us for our freedom.” I ask simply, ‘what freedom?’ Our most sacred right is slowly being taken away.
The Patriot Act was the end of privacy. And, yes, “big brother is watching.” And he’s not Santa Claus.
The Guardian Express