So you're upset because the government has confirmed what we've known since Internet 2.0? No, you have no more privacy, you should have figured that out when your Starbucks app asked to have access to your location. Did you not know that that's what the NSA did? No one's seen Good Will Hunting? Maybe I'm cynical, but the words of Captain Renault come to mind. The FBI and NSA spy on Americans? And the whole government knows about it? And the information companies involved were all complicit?! I am shocked -- SHOCKED!
And who wouldn't be, unless, of course, you were breathing and conscious during the Bush administration. Have we forgotten what happened after 9/11? The blunted-affect terror hangover, the news-induced PTSD on a national scale, the seemingly unanimous lust for vengeance. It only took a month after the attacks to invade Afghanistan, two weeks later the USA PATRIOT Act was drafted and passed. Remember what we were called for speaking out? Remember how quickly we went from 9/12 camaraderie straight back to red and blue states? It went from being a philosophical disagreement to treason, as if suggesting non-retaliatory solutions were telling 9/11 orphans to shove it up their asses.
So forgive me if I find the recent outrage about government overreach not just a bit disingenuous. I find it especially rich that the conservative speaker box is trying to pin this onto Barry-O. In fact, I'm starting to find the recent stream of Obama-directed scandals a bit suspicious. I think of Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declaring that making Obama a one-term president was the goal of the GOP, and now, not even half a year after their thoroughly embarrassing pounding last November, I think they've modified that goal to being the first Congress to successfully impeach a president. Even when I find myself disagreeing with the Obama, whenever the media and particularly the conservative side has a conniption fit about something the president does, I have yet to find a single "scandal" that can't be adequately described with this image.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not defending the recent revelations of government surveillance. I think we all have good cause to be alarmed and creeped out and ticked off, but how many Orwellian policies -- really 1984-type stuff -- did we turn a blind eye to during Bush 2? Bush authorized domestic spying, which no one on the right seemed to find troublesome at the time. Bush lied about WMDs in Iraq, and the New York Times backed him up. Bush pushed FISA and retroactive immunity for telecom companies that aided the government in their spying. Habeus Corpus and the Fourth Amendment were expendable relics of the 18th century, but Obama pushing the limits of what literally everyone agrees is the law sets us off? Do you feel like a jackass now? I think we can all agree that there is a strange balance to be found between transparency and national security, but if it's not okay now, it sure as hell wasn't okay then.
And it hasn't even worked! I was watching from mile 24 when the marathon bombs went off. The shoe and underwear bombers weren't stopped by TSA, they were done in by their own incompetence. Why are we allowing this legislation to persist if it doesn't keep us any safer? Can I be the first to say I'd rather have my family meet me at the gate than take extraordinary measures to feel only psychologically more secure? Are we willing to defend our rights or do we just like the idea of them?
If you are really afraid that the government has too much power, the simple solution is to get rid of the legislation that seems to enable them to do whatever they want. Two years ago, President Obama quietly signed a four-year extension of the Patriot Act. It certainly was not my favorite decisions of his but, perhaps to my discredit, I take the old Bill Hicks joke pretty seriously. It's out of the realm of possibility to have the Patriot Act repealed right now, if for no other reason than the already impossible stalemate we have going in Congress. Given the chance, I doubt this House would even do anything about it, but the next House will vote on the renewal of the Patriot Act in 2015. And before the recent spying scandals, the president had previously signaled his desire to repeal the AUMF, which may indicate a willingness to end the whole swath of executive powers before someone else takes his seat.
So mark your calendars, set your alerts. And when it's time to start picking candidates this time next year, call your nominees, go to their rallies, and ask them how they plan to vote on the renewal. Tell them that supporters of the Patriot Act cannot count on your vote, that opponents of the Patriot Act will be watched closely to ensure honesty, and above all, remind them that they are temps in nice suits.
Even if we are successful, doing so will not fix all of these problems; in fact, government overreach is going to be a problem until our demise, simply because we are the most powerful nation the world has ever seen. But repealing the Patriot Act will return to us so much of the legal protections we are still today finding we took for granted and, if nothing else, a bit of the confidence we'd lost after September 11. It is never too late to correct past mistakes or forgive old grudges, but it gets harder as the state of exception becomes the new norm. It's been 12 years. You know many people who've quit cigarettes after that long? You know a lot of people who let go of an anger they've fed off of for over a decade? Let's forgive ourselves for being so dumb for so long and try to make things right. Let's repeal the Patriot Act.