I’ve been hearing and reading a lot about how many progressives and conservatives (and some who wouldn’t classify themselves in either category) are shocked and outraged at government overreach and spying. You know what? I’m fed up that more people in positions of power aren’t talking about how we ended up in this position in the first place, and I’m fed up that a majority of Americans seem apathetic about what has happened and continues to take place because of it. Because guess what — if you’re pissed about government overreach and the NSA’s secret data collection, you’re actually in the minority according to new polling on the issue.
Here’s the thing we have to remember — we put ourselves in this situation by electing (and re-electing) incompetent people into office. We elected the career politicians who couldn’t give a damn about anything except their pocketbooks and their corporate overlords. We put the idiot with the lowest IQ in the state of Texas in the White House, of all places. And not on a guided tour, but as president, simply because he had a recognizable name and “God told him to run.” And then to top it off, we re-elected him simply because we were “in a time of war” and wanted “stability” in Washington. Never mind the fact that the only thing G.W. knew about “stable leadership” involved the horses on his ranch.
We’re the ones who didn’t listen to Russ Feingold when he warned us what would happen with troubling provisions in the Patriot Act way back in 2001:
Under this provision, the government can apparently go on a fishing expedition and collect information on virtually anyone. All it has to allege in order to get an order for these records from the court is that the information is sought for an investigation of international terrorism or clandestine intelligence gathering. That’s it. On that minimal showing in an ex parte application to a secret court, with no showing even that the information is relevant to the investigation, the government can lawfully compel a doctor or hospital to release medical records, or a library to release circulation records. This is a truly breathtaking expansion of police power.
Feingold was the only Senator to vote against the Patriot Act. Since then, public support for the Patriot Act has consistently gone up, with more Americans seeing it as a “necessary tool” in the fight against terror. Also since then, Russ Feingold was voted out of office in favor of a corporate shill named Ron Johnson who subsequently voted for extensions on the same types of provisions Senator Feingold was warning us about — the same types of FISA provisions that made the nullifying of our Fourth Amendment rights “legal” in the first place.
Meanwhile, public support for the NSA tracking our phone records is above 50% in a new Pew Research Center / Washington Post poll.
But what about before the Patriot Act was ever passed into law — did we all suddenly forget that the Bush administration had intelligence on the imminent threat of an Osama bin Laden attack before 9/11, but did nothing to act on it?
Yet their inaction and incompetence was used as an excuse to pass legislation which effectively has led to the nullification of our Fourth Amendment rights as they relate to the federal government. Legislation that was actually in the works long before 9/11, just waiting for an excuse to gain the support needed to pass. And a majority of Americans are apparently perfectly fine with that.
What’s wrong with us? Why should Washington’s incompetence be an acceptable excuse to relinquish our Fourth Amendment rights? Especially when we had the intelligence which very well could have prevented 9/11 — without the aid of the Patriot Act and the phone logs of American citizens — but Bush failed to act on it.
Let me reiterate — George W. Bush failed to act on intelligence before 9/11, and that is precisely what led to the support for the Patriot Act to be finalized and passed into law.
Why is this acceptable?
Why is it suddenly perfectly fine with a majority of Americans that we make our life story and daily activities accessible to the government at any moment’s notice without any probable cause of wrongdoing on our part? The affable goofball we elected president made a booboo, so it’s fine that we lower expectations in Washington and give up our privacy in the process.
So now not only do we have the NSA amassing millions of records on Americans, but the FBI has also stepped up their collection of business records of U.S. citizens — by 1,000% just last year, over their total requests from four years earlier. All thanks to the perfectly acceptable “broad interpretation” of the Patriot Act’s Section 215.
How much does Congress care about the questionable Constitutional legality of the Patriot Act? Aside from the fact that they’ve continually and without fail voted to extend it, in 2010 the Senate’s final debate on those extensions lasted a grand total of 20 seconds before they were passed. Yes, 20 whole seconds — about the same length of time it takes Usain Bolt to run 200 meters. In 2012, debate was more spirited as more members of Congress were at least partially aware of what was going on with the NSA and secret spying — but yet again the provisions allowing it were extended.
Do we seriously think we’re going to get our privacy back now that we’ve shown we’re fine with not having it? The Patriot Act isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, unless we actually elect people who give a damn about our Constitution and Bill of Rights — and not just select parts of it. Judging by the apathy of millions of Americans, sadly, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. If you’re educated, knowledgeable, well spoken and care about our rights as Americans, we need you now more than ever before to speak up and get active. If more of us don’t, we might as well throw in the towel and propose an amendment to repeal the Fourth, because that’s where we’re headed as a nation.
Everybody should thank the Bush administration’s incompetence for allowing this the momentum to move forward in the first place.
Be sure to check out his archives on Forward Progressives for more of his viewpoints.