When the terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, the country was shocked to see the depth of our vulnerability. It is the hallmark of any society steeped in personal liberty and freedom that a certain amount of risk will exist. People who have bad motives and evil intent will find the loopholes and attack the most vulnerable. It was in that spirit that the original Patriot Act was passed.
The USA PATRIOT Act (commonly known as the Patriot Act) was a landmark Act of the United States Congress, signed into law by President George W. Bush. The formal name of the statute is the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001, and the commonly used short name is a contrived acronym that is embedded in the name set forth in the statute.
Opponents of the law have criticized its provision for indefinite detention of immigrants; permission to law enforcement to search a home or business without the owner’s or the occupant’s consent or knowledge under certain circumstances; the expanded use of National Security Letters, which allows the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to search telephone, email, 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 court challenges have been brought against the act, and federal courts have ruled that a number of provisions are unconstitutional.
Like most people, I had thought that the Patriot Act had expired.
But that is not the case. The intelligience community including the FBI is still using portions of the act that allow them to surveil American CItizens. Recently, it has come to light that people who are protesting the actions of school boards fall into this nebulous category of “extremists” and “domestic terrorism”.
A particularly controversial provision of the PATRIOT Act, Section 215, gives the government immense power to demand records from companies for national security investigations. Section 215 exists in law as the “business records provision” of FISA, and authorizes the government to demand virtually any “tangible things” that do not consist of communications content, and without any suspicion of wrongdoing. The executive branch has repeatedly abused the authorities in Section 215—a problem that has been reduced, but not fully resolved.
The National Security Agency (NSA) previously used Section 215 to engage in nationwide bulk collection of phone records, a gross misapplication beyond what Congress authorized the law to do. When it last reformed the provision, in 2015, Congress outlawednationwide bulk collection, and created the authority for a new “call detail records program.” This program is more limited but is invasive nonetheless, allowing the NSA to obtain all call records of both a designated target and everyone they communicate with.
Now, the FBI is tracking American citizens who raise their voice against school boards. This sounds just like what the Soviets did during the Cold War. Is that what we have become?
Our freedoms are under assault. Freedom of speech is a bedrock principle of liberty and freedom in a Republic. Where do your elected representatives stand on these issues? Its time to wake up and see the danger we are under. Its time for freedom to return to this country.