The clear morning of September 11, 2001 was interrupted by an ear-rending explosion. In what appeared to be a freak accident, an American Airlines Boeing 747, loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel, crashed into the 80th story of the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, instantly killing hundreds of people, and trapping hundreds more on higher stories.
But that was before the second plane…
18 minutes later, the south tower was hit by a second plane, again with devastating results, and it became clear that this was no accident. Within 2 hours, both buildings had collapsed.
As panic enveloped New York, the Pentagon in D.C. was hit by yet another plane, killing over 200, including all 60 passengers of the plane.
Americans soon learned that the planes had been hijacked by al Qaeda terrorists, making it the first major attack of its kind. That fatal day, more than 3,000 Americans were killed, including many who sacrificed their lives to save others. What followed however, was nearly as devastating as the lives that were lost.
On October 26, a mere 45 days after the attacks, congress passed the USA PATRIOT act. (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.) The intended purpose of this hurried legislation was to increase public safety by expanding law enforcement and government intelligence surveillance powers, allowing the government to keep an eye on suspected terrorists.
The actual results were anything but patriotic, assaulting Americans’ 4th amendment rights, and expanding government surveillance to arbitrary extremes.
The 4th amendment states,
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Today, I’m going to be going over how the patriot act goes against the 4th amendment, destroying American freedom.
To start with, the call detail records program in section 215 of the act was highly invasive. In 2018, the National Security Agency (NSA) used it to collect records from over 19 million phone numbers, based on fewer than 50 suspects. In addition, the program did nothing to aid national security. In fact, the NSA has never reported the detection of a terrorist plot, and has refused to provide evidence that they ever have.
But that’s not all.
The business records provision in Section 215 allowed government agencies to force businesses to turn over records for “national security investigations”, along with the power to demand any “tangible thing” that isn’t communication. This is essentially communism, where the government owns everything, is able to demand anything, is able to seize anything, and is able to do anything, as long as they can come up with a lame excuse.
In addition, section 215 allowed searches without warrant if the victim is a suspected terrorist or is suspected to be “affiliated with terrorists”, an arbitrary term used to color in any blank space left on the document labelled “government power”.
You thought you had your 4th amendment rights, didn’t you? But as long as the patriot act exists, you don’t!
But before we go any further, let’s talk about why the 4th amendment is so important.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “innocent until proven guilty”. It basically states that it’s unjust to assume that someone has committed a crime until there is evidence that they have committed that crime. After all, it wouldn’t be fair if I could accuse you of stealing whenever I felt like it, and have the courts on my side.
However, when the government can search your home without a warrant, or can easily obtain a warrant whenever they feel like it, they’re using a “guilty until proven innocent” mindset. They’re violating your privacy without a valid reason, and that’s not okay. At all.
The list goes on and on. There is no end to the destructive consequences resulting from the patriot act, and the only way we can regain our precious freedom is by getting rid of it.
Here’s the good news…
On March 15, 2020, the patriot act expired. Why are we going off on a big rant about how our freedoms are disappearing, then?
It’s because of the bad news…
The patriot act isn’t actually gone. Our lawmakers can’t leave it alone. They will keep trying to reenact it and other laws that give them more power. In fact, on May 19, the senate passed a modified version of the patriot act allowing government intelligence agencies to access private citizens’ internet browsing history, without a warrant!
It’s clear that our fight for freedom is far from over. As long as terrorism, war, and violence dominate our society, the government will be lurking in the dark, waiting for any excuse to pounce on our freedom. And they will get away with it… unless freedom loving people like you and me stand together and defend our freedom. Unless we unite as true Americans, and act with patriotism, the patriot act will always be there.