War on Terror is Never Ending – Part Two: The Stripping of Freedom

We left off with the invasion of Afghanistan under false pretenses.

Our government’s fear mongering continued with the passing of The USA PATRIOT Act, or the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (Worst. Acronym. Ever.). PATRIOT was highly controversial and fueled “Big Brother” comparisons as in George Orwell’s 1984 (more on the War on Terror : 1984 comparison in part 4). In particular, Title II of the act gives the government the authority to:

  • Authority to intercept wire, oral, and electronic communications relating to terrorism
  • Authority to intercept wire, oral, and electronic communications relating to computer fraud and abuse offenses
  • Authority to share electronic, wire and oral interception information
  • Roving surveillance authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978
  • Seizure of voice-mail messages pursuant to warrants
  • Pen register and trap and trace authority under FISA
  • Access to records and other items under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
  • Immunity for compliance with FISA wiretap

So, what’s this FISA you keep hearing about? It’s the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was created in 1979 to surveil “foreign powers” and “foreign agents”, meaning people of other countries’ governments were fair game with our without a warrant (if there was no warrant, the Attorney General could authorize surveillance for one year as long as it pertained to foreign intelligence). This act was recently amended.

The Patriot Act is in conflict with the 4th amendment of the U.S. constitution; that is, the article that prevents unauthorized search and seizure. With the government’s ability to surveil anyone and listen to their phone calls (though it only pertains to terrorism/national security), they are, plainly, spying on their citizens in the name of “National Security”. In addition, in 2007, an audit found that the FBI misused and, at times, illegally used the Patriot Act in order to get information on citizens. It also underreported how many times it went to businesses telling them to hand over customer data. The DOJ audit also found 26 violations in its use of national security letters. How did we come to let our government agencies spy on citizens illegally? Were our elected officials asleep on the senate floor?

Turns out they were. What’s shocking is that the bill was passed with surprisingly fast speed through the Senate, with our Senators probably believing that anything that would combat terrorism would be welcome in the wake of the September 11 attacks. In Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11, he recorded a senator saying that “no Senator read the bill”. We elect these people into office, and they don’t read a bill that’s infringing on our constitutional rights? How could this have happened?

To add insult to injury, the NSA warrant-less wiretapping program (yet another program to illegally spy on people, with at least one of them being overseas) was implemented for… You guessed it, “national security”. This caused quite a stir in the media and the Justice Department (and deservedly so) because anonymous sources came forward and said the NSA tapped “domestic calls” (i.e. had nothing pertaining to terrorism or issues of national security). Another day, another American citizen’s liberties get thrown out the window. Totally routine with this administration. And here’s the best part: the buffoon we elected into office to run this whole shebang, going by the alias of “Dubya”, said this:

This authorisation is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power, under our laws and constitution, to protect them and their civil liberties and that is exactly what I will continue to do as long as I am president of the United States.

That is insane. Bush has no awareness of what’s actually in the constitution and what constitutes “civil liberties”, does he? I’ll tell you this much: Bush does not care about the civil liberties of the American people or people in other countries. He thinks you’ve got civil liberty if you’re alive, have a “God Bless America” or “Support the Troops” bumper sticker on your Hummer, and go to church every Sunday.

* * * * *

Another massive controversy is the use of CCTV in cities, and especially in the UK. They have been in the UK for quite a long time (London has 500,000 cameras), and exist in huge numbers, drawing yet more comparisons to “Big Brother surveillance”. Can anyone guess why they’re installed in the first place?

That’s right, “security”.

The problem is, they don’t do anything to deter crime, at all. There is no hard evidence to support that they’ve helped lower crime rates, and probably wouldn’t do anything in the event of a terrorist attack. The irony is that the cameras have grown in popularity since the September 11 attacks for obvious reasons: people are scared of a terrorist attack and think that the cameras would do some good. Wrong.

Here’s the kicker: a UK watchdog has said that up to 90% of the CCTV cameras in the UK (there’s 1 camera for every 14 people, astonishingly) are illegal.

Our research shows that up to 90 per cent of CCTV installations fail to comply with the Information Commissioner’s code of practice, and that many installations are operated illegally. That has profound implications for the reputation of the CCTV and camera surveillance industry and all concerned with it.

* * * * *

The worst part is that someone who supports the PATRIOT Act will inevitably say, “Well, no terrorist attacks have happened since 2001, so the acts are doing their jobs, right?”

Again, wrong. There’s no proof whatsoever that the provisions of the Patriot Act have actually let the government catch terrorists or people planning an attack. All acts like PATRIOT do are take away our freedoms, very slowly, until we realize that they’re gone. As much as I hate to sound like a right-wing radio host, our freedom is our most powerful right and tool. If they take that away, what are we?

In fear and faith, we lose our freedoms.
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  1. The problem is, they don’t do anything to deter crime, at all. There is no hard evidence to support that they’ve helped lower crime rates, and probably wouldn’t do anything in the event of a terrorist attack. The irony is that the cameras have grown in popularity since the September 11 attacks for obvious reasons: people are scared of a terrorist attack and think that the cameras would do some good. Wrong.

    Quite true – in another study it showed that one simple thing actually brought the crime rate down and gave the local citizens much more peace of mind. What was that?

    Police officers on the beat – yes, just walking the streets brought crime down!

    Another excellent post, Leap!

  2. leapsecond

    What’s amazing is that while this post sounds all opinion… It’s actually fact. Almost everything I said (besides the things that were blatantly opinionated) came from news articles I dug up.

  3. Leap – that is a good thing.

    If you want to just add fact after fact you can URL it – but that isn’t what people want to read, it is what you think that gets people interested. Even if they don’t agree with you.

    I like the way you do it by the way. Glad to see you using the forums, too! They are good for getting your blog out there.

  1. 1 War on Terror Is Never Ending - Part Three: Worldwide Terror « The 59 Second Minute

    […] The Writer War on Terror is Never Ending – Part Two: The Stripping of Freedom […]




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