By the Fall of 2014, we all need to agree on two simple demands - that all members of the House and Senate who voted for the Patriot Act, and all of its subsequent renewals, be voted out of office. The other demand is that anyone running for Congress must promise to repeal the Patriot Act before doing anything else.
The only thing more alarming than the news about the NSA's all-encompassing citizen spying program PRISM, are members of Congress defending this blatant violation of 4th amendment rights protecting all citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. PRISM mined data from Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Youtube, and other sites. They monitored calls from Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint networks. And they even mined data from credit card companies. Since the Patriot Act was signed into law shortly after 9/11, warrantless wiretapping and constant monitoring of our phone and email conversations has been business as usual. This is the fault of both the Bush and Obama administrations, as each corporate party is captive to the same military-industrial complex making big bucks from the intrusive police and surveillance state in the US.
This government is waging war on civil liberties, and anyone who speaks out against its overreach. After the Obama administration's DOJ seized phone records of AP reporters, they defended their decision, saying it was important to catch and punish government whistleblowers. The ongoing Bradley Manning trial is just one of many metaphors for the government clamping down on anyone trying to shine light on unconstitutional and criminal actions taken by the government. There are ominous posters in the DC Metro implying that government whistleblowers will be killed. This is even happening at the state level -- the Wisconsin legislature convened under the cover of night to pass a bill banning the Center for Investigative Journalism from the University of Wisconsin campus, directly intruding on a free press' right to public documents.
This didn't all just happen overnight. After the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001, our rights to privacy as citizens were signed away. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) was the only senator who voted no to the bill that gave massive new powers to the DOJ. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) didn't vote yes or no. The House vote for the 2001 bill was also pretty one-sided - the Patriot Act passed 357-66. When it came up for reauthorization in 2006, the Senate passed it 89-10 (there were several who voted yes in 2001 and no in 2006) and the house passed it 280-138. And in 2011, the Patriot Act was extended through 2015 on an 86-12 vote in the Senate, and a 275-144 vote in the House. You can see how your members of Congress voted here, here and here. And it's important to note that presidents of both parties signed extensions of the Patriot Act into law.
The whole argument behind this assault on our civil liberties is that the Patriot Act's passage and subsequent extensions were necessary to win the so-called war on terror. Today, we've since killed Osama bin Laden and numerous other presumed al-Qaeda leaders. We were told the reason 9/11 happened is because terrorists hate our freedom. But if the main assailant on our constitutional rights today is the government itself, then that makes anyone in Congress who still supports the Patriot Act a terrorist attacking our freedom.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) defended these intrusions on our rights, saying, "It's called protecting America." It's worth noting that Feinstein received almost $200,000 from Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, BAE Systems and drone manufacturer General Atomics in the 2012 election cycle. Ardent Patriot Act supporters like Feinstein aren't protecting their constituents, but the profits and stock prices of their sugar daddies.
Obama ran on a promise of discontinuing warrantless wiretapping in 2008. He's since become embroiled in scandals of Nixonian proportions after the seizure of the AP's phone calls and, most recently, our own. His presidency marked the rise of the oppressive surveillance state that was too busy monitoring peaceful protesters to catch the Boston bombers, even after Russia warned us twice over that bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was in the US and was capable of planning a terrorist attack. While the Obama administration's NSA missed out on the Tsarnaevs, they've almost completed their new, state-of-the-art data center in the mountains of Utah, where every phone call and every piece of online communication from every citizen is stored. This troubling new surveillance culture isn't for terrorists, it's for us.
George Orwell's book 1984 was meant to be a fiction novel, not an instruction manual. If we want to stop the government's tyrannical spree and blatant disregard for our rights, we have to insist that the Patriot Act be repealed and that we abolish the Department of Homeland Security in its entirety. We can no longer call ourselves a free country until we accomplish both of those objectives.