After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Congress passed and President Bush signed into law, The Patriot Act. In a nut shell, the purpose of the Patriot Act was to aid law enforcement agencies in tracking down and capturing suspected terrorists and prevent future terrorist attacks on the country. Some claim it has worked. Others claim it is a tool which now allows the government free rein to spy on its citizens. Twelve years after the legislation was passed by Congress, we are now seeing people angry. We are now seeing people and media organizations outraged. But, where was the outrage twelve years ago? See twelve years ago, when this law was enacted, if a member of Congress or an ordinary citizen voiced concern, he or she was labeled unpatriotic. If someone questioned the wisdom of such a law, they were told they were just as bad as the terrorists who attacked us. The government told us this law and these actions were necessary to keep us all safe and countless other attacks have been averted because of this law. During the Presidency of George W. Bush, the government was not over reaching or spying, the government was protecting us. Today, they government is spying. Well, I have news for these individuals who are now outraged. Too late!
See, they had their chance. These organizations and people could have stood up twelve years ago and voiced their concern. But, they didn’t. They followed along like sheep, towing the line that it was in the best interest of the country. What else has been in the best interest of the country? During World War II it was decided that sending Japanese Americans to internment camps was in our best interest. It was considered our best interest to place all Native American Peoples on reservations. Until WWII it was in our best interest to have segregated fighting units. Let’s not forget about slavery. That was considered not just in our best interest, but in the slaves best interest as well. You see, this country has a long history of deciding that policies are in our best interest, when in fact, they are not. Yet, it isn’t until well after a policy has been discontinued do people actually say they were against it from the start.
It should really come as no surprise that the government spies on its people. Yet, we play ignorant until such time as a grand unveiling. Now, we feign indignation and say, “how dare they?” Our nation has become spoiled. We want everything. We want to be protected, but we don’t want any type of inconvenience. We don’t want to know how we are being protected, we just want to make sure we are. If the policies of the Patriot Act were not in place and the country was attacked, there would be an uproar. Now, we are protected, we are pretty safe. And there is an uproar.
News outlets are saying that President Obama has lied or gone back on promises to be more transparent. Yet, when it comes to issues of national security, there is no transparency allowed. There is information which is classified for a reason. If we want a free and open society, then we accept that there are risks. If we want to board a plane or a train or a bus without being searched and taking off our shoes and our belts and not waiting in a long line, we must accept that there is a small probability that something catastrophic could happen during the flight or ride.
Unfortunately, there are no simple answers to the problems of national security. Should the government be able to randomly see our phone records? No. Should they be able to see our internet browsing history? No. Should the government tape conversations of reporters? No. Yet, should government officials leak information which could conceivably put the nation at risk? No. But, these issues are not mutually exclusive. They are all tied together and interwoven. The Constitution guarantees this nation to the right of a free press. It does not say the press is exempt from being subject of investigation. The Constitution protects citizens against unreasonable searches. Yet, is it unreasonable for the FBI or National Security Agency to look at phone records or internet browsing history?
If people are going to be upset by these new revelations, then they should have been upset twelve years ago. Since there was no groundswell of opposition then, there should be no groundswell of opposition now. Fox News is upset because one of their reporters was spied on. Yet, during the Bush Presidency, if CNN or MSNBC had one of its reporters spied on, they would have kept quiet. National Security should not be a partisan divide. Having said that, let me be very clear. I was an opponent of these policies in 2001. I was an opponent of these policies during the Bush Presidency and I am still an opponent of these policies.