There has been a bit of comment on the hate crimes amendment to the military funding bill, so I won’t add to that.
However, there needs to be more attention paid to the Patriot Act, when combined with what I see as a general trend towards the enlargement and intrusion of government into Americans personal lives.
For instance, many are worried that conservative groups may come to be considered “terrorists”; however what is even more disturbing, is that the government is even now, conducting huge datamining operations of domestic spying.
In September, Wired magazine documented this collaboration between hotels and the FBI to turn over guest information.
In the NY Times Review of books, James Bamford discusses this facility being built by the NSA in Utah which is to be used to vacuum up massive amounts of receipts, emails, phone records and the like.
Renewal of the Patriot Act allows for the government to access phone records to record meta-data such as phone numbers called and received; what is not clear is how much information it stores regarding email and text messages sent or received. Just today, Wired documented again that the telephone companies are openly acting in close collaboration with the FBI to monitor and record phone traffic.
Ordinarily, in order to obtain this sort of information, the government is required to obtain a warrant; the entire purpose of warrants was to ensure that there is some neutral third party oversight of government action. The Founding Fathers didn’t trust the executive branch to have unlimited power to search or incriminating evidence on the citizens.
In the wake of 9/11, the power of the government was massively enlarged, on the premise of protecting us from foreign terrorists; yet these tools are not aimed at foreign agents nor are they only to be used abroad. These are information gathering tools that are intended to be used on American citizens, with little or no judicial oversight. The much-discussed FISA courts have been rendered largely neutered.
The possibility for liberty- crushing mischief if tremendous; there is nothing to prevent the government from using these powers to go after political enemies, or crush dissent, or punish groups with which it disagrees.
The word “disturbing” is putting it mildly.
Unlimited power to protect us is unlimited power to oppress us.
There needs to be an immediate outcry that the government has grown too large, too intrusive, and far too powerful. For 200 years, through wars and insurrections, even after British troops marched through Washington and burned the White House, the principle has stood that no power should be unchecked, that the police power of the State must be balanced by the judiciary.
Forcing the government to show evidence and get a warrant does nothing to reduce the power to protect the nation; it only ensures that we the citizens are protected from the very government that we rely upon.