The USA Patriot Act was intended to protect the American people from further terrorist attacks following September 11. Most people were on board at the time because the intent seemed clear. It passed in Congress by overwhelming margins. Since that time, however, the lines have begun to blur.
On June 1, 2015, the Patriot Act provisions expire and will either need to be reauthorized or revised. Currently, the government has the ability to collect countless forms of information about Americans.
In a recent interview with Edward Snowden, he stated that his concern with the NSA is their ability to spy on Americans. While he understands the need for foreign surveillance, it is domestic monitoring that he questions. To that point, however, domestic terrorism is very much a reality today.
It is a fine line between protecting the safety of the American public and blatantly violating their rights. When and where does that line get crossed? One could argue that any expectation of privacy has been long gone in this age of technology. You never know when you may be making a cameo appearance in a YouTube video someone recorded on their cell phone without your knowledge or CCTV footage of you and your ex-boyfriend dancing in front of the White House... okay that one was me but you see where I am going with this! The question becomes, do we stop living because "big brother" is watching? Do we insist on total privacy and expose ourselves to additional threats of terrorism? Do we throw away the very freedom and civil liberties this country was founded on and let the government take over?
It is no wonder Congress made the decision to pass the Patriot Act post 9/11 with immediacy and, perhaps, a bit of extremism. It was a time of such uncertainty that extreme measures needed to be taken to protect the safety of the public. While measures need to remain in place for the same purpose, they may not need to be as extreme or to infringe quite so much on public privacy.
As long as the war on terror exists, there will be a need for the Patriot Act. In all likelihood, this is simply the world we live in now. There are, however, aspects of the Patriot Act that are undeniably in need of revision. We, the people, need to call on our policy makers to make the necessary changes on June 1st to both keep us safe and keep us free.