Q&A with a Wide-Eyed Baby: The Patriot Act
Wide-eyed Baby: The Patriot Act sounds like a good thing. I’m a patriotic child. Why shouldn’t I be for it?
Ruby Lee: Like other dishonest phenomena, the deceptively-named Patriot Act attempts to mask its purpose. Usually the title is exactly the opposite of what it does. The Patriot Act is probably the most unpatriotic bill to ever be enacted.
WEB: You know, you are harder to listen to than a Nickelback song.
RL: Sorry. The Patriot Act was signed into law by George W. Bush soon after September 11. It decimated our civil liberties, allowing unrestrained surveillance of innocent American citizens, including wiretaps and physical searches.
WEB: Hello, what about the Bill of Rights? The feds need to show probable cause before they can snoop, right?
RL: Not anymore. They only have to state the information is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation. However, all information is considered relevant.
WEB: Couldn’t they use the information for reasons that aren’t security-related?
RL: They are doing that. A programmer named Edward Snowden was working for the NSA, and he exposed massive, widespread abuses –
WEB: What’s NSA?
RL: National Security Agency.
WEB: A deceptively-named agency! The opposite of national security!
RL: You’re certainly an astute infant! Very little of what the NSA does can stand up to scrutiny. Federal courts recently examined 19,000 queries they ran, and only 1,000 or so were connected to a criminal investigation – i.e., 95% of the time, they are violating your privacy for some other purpose.
WEB: I’m a baby and haven’t done anything that would cause me to get in trouble if the feds look at my records… yet! But it seems like forfeiting our privacy to shadowy bureaucrats who are in no way accountable invites abuse of power. How many attacks have been prevented, anyway?
WEB: Go Dubya! Did President Obama give Snowden the Congressional Medal of Honor?
RL: Snowden lives in exile. The president wants him extradited to face espionage charges and up to 30 years in a federal maximum security penitentiary, but Russia won’t comply.
WEB: The guy who showed us that we are being attacked has to be protected from us by the Russians? No comprende. Didn’t Obama campaign that the Patriot Act is an inexcusable violation of our civil liberties and vow to overturn it?
RL: Yes. But after he was elected, he renewed and expanded it instead.
WEB: He lied to get elected!
RL: He evolved.
WEB: Ah, Orwellian. Double-plus-good on you. So it’s good the Republicans are in control of Congress, yes?
RL: There’s no difference. The new Senate Majority Leader is a Republican. He could’ve kept his mouth shut, and the Patriot Act would expire next month, but he’s pushing to renew it.
WEB: Look it. Just tell me which party to blame for the Patriot Act.
RL: Both – this is what happens when Republicans and Democrats collaborate. Bush passed the Patriot Act, Obama expanded it. Reid defends it, McConnell extends it. See?
WEB: Well, in the absence of principled leadership from either party, why wouldn’t a clever ‘dark horse’ presidential contender seize the opportunity to become the champion of civil liberties? Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul have little to lose and everything to gain.