Perspectives: Let the Patriot Act expire

Image composite, St. George News

OPINION – For the first time in nearly 14 years, the scare tactics aren’t working.

This past weekend saw Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other proponents of the national security state fail in their bid to renew key provisions of the Patriot Act.

Of course, few people were aware of this encouraging development. That’s because the vast majority of Americans were busy with graduation parties, being entertained, or obsessing over past sins of one of the Duggar children.

The tiny handful of people watching C-Span2 on a Friday night witnessed one of the most positive developments of the past decade. The Senate failed to pass a clean re-authorization of the Patriot Act which is due to sunset on June 1.

Earlier, senators also failed to pass a compromise bill – the Orwellian-titled USA Freedom Act–which would have renewed certain provisions of the Patriot Act.

This act would have forbid the NSA from doing mass collection of bulk telephone data but still allowed phone companies to collect the data without fear of being sued.

Rand Paul was the man of the hour in raising objection after objection to Senator McConnell’s repeated attempts to extend the Patriot Act for even a short period.

It’s time to let our equivalent of Germany’s 1933 Enabling Act find its rightful place on the trash heap of history. We’ve had ample time to wise up.

Few people were thinking clearly when the Patriot Act was passed in the panicky days following the 9/11 attacks.

Its passage was guaranteed by our elected leaders’ fear, anger, and the nearly uncontrollable urge to “do something” long after the cat was out of the bag.

Government officials insisted that they could be trusted not to abuse the new powers they were assuming. This is entirely contrary to the proper role of government which is to protect and guarantee our natural rights.

The justification for any abridgment of personal liberty requires that the burden of proof be placed squarely on the government. Assurances are not enough.

Under the Patriot Act, even peaceful protesters can find themselves accused of criminal activity if their activities are scrutinized through the lens of intending “to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.”

How is that protecting the American public from terrorism?

The Patriot Act expanded federal power to spy on the American people through wiretaps and the monitoring of emails and internet communications without a warrant or probable cause.

This lack of judicial oversight combined with the secrecy of our national security state has led to abuses affecting the privacy of everyone.

They are responsible for the implementation of the massive NSA domestic surveillance machine on which Edward Snowden blew the whistle two years ago.

Supporters of the Patriot Act and domestic spying have long maintained that these policies are necessary to keep us safe from the threat of terrorism. Yet even the FBI admits that no major cases have been cracked by violating the privacy of scores of millions of Americans.

Even the alleged minor terror plots that the FBI has broken up have consisted of federal provocateurs baiting weak-minded individuals into agreeing to do bad things. In other words, the plots themselves were created by the FBI–not by terrorists.

It’s becoming clearer that the threat of terrorism has been a means to an end of gaining greater control over the American people through the diminishing of their right to privacy.

The fear-mongering has been shameless. The message is unmistakable: We must choose between freedom and security.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gave us a peek into the curious mindset of the political class when he spoke out in defense of expiring Patriot Act.

Christie said, ” You know, you can’t enjoy your civil liberties when you’re in a coffin.”

Yeah. It’s pretty tough to enjoy them living in the world’s biggest open-air prison too.

The lesson that appears to be finally taking hold is that politicians tend to expand their power without fully considering the long-term effects of their decisions.

When enough people start asking the question, “Does this policy increase or decrease the power of the federal government over my life?” The answer becomes obvious.

As dangerous as terrorists might be, they’ve never had the kind of measurable negative effect on our freedoms that our own government is having.

Let the Patriot Act expire. Let us face our challenges and the dangers of the world with the ultimate goal of securing and maintaining our freedoms.

The proper role of legitimate government has always been to keep us free, not just to keep us safe.

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

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Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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  • sagemoon May 29, 2015 at 11:21 am

    I’m sorry I missed this piece earlier in the week. Good thoughts.

  • Brian May 29, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. We are far LESS safe than we were the day after 9/11. Over 200 million people were killed in the 20th century due to the actions of tyrannical government (democide: Nowhere near that have been killed due to terrorism (or anarchy) through all of history combined. The Constitution was meant to largely handcuff government, not empower it.

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