As we reach the anniversary of the passing and implementation of the Patriot Act, I have to admit I am still somewhat torn. In retrospect to that time, I had recently transitioned to the United States Air Force Reserves from the active duty Air Force, when the act was originally passed, and for the first few years of the response to the attacks on 9/11 my job actually validated why it was needed.
I am probably not alone in that regard, as the emotions stirred by the terrorist attacks of the previous months ranged from anger to vulnerability in a way I had not experienced in my lifetime. That, coupled with a strong sense of patriotism and sitting in the midst of one of the organizations that were tasked with carrying out portions of the response to the attacks, there was a sense of comfort that everyone was doing things “by the book.” After all, we took the same training and followed the rules as members of the military supporting the intelligence actions of our country. It was easy to trust that we were doing the right thing from that perspective.
Fast forward many years and that perspective has been shattered for numerous reasons, many of which are personal, gained through years of continued work within the supported communities, yet others are quite public. The largest and most notable, of course, being the actions of Edward Snowden. Regardless of your personal feelings about Snowden, his actions did show the very real danger that our very own government presents to liberty and freedom of individual Americans.
And now, as many Americans see the power of the U.S. government focused on them—threatening their liberties and freedom—it is a lesson that powers provided to the government can and will eventually be abused. No matter what your political leanings are, and no matter your trust in the people in control of the government right now or in the past, the people in charge will change in time. If the government has the power to leverage against political opponents, but has chosen not to do so, does not mean it will not or will never use or abuse that power.
We must be honest with our history in regards to these matters and the use of surveillance of public figures and political activists to know how this ends if the powers are not removed from the purview of the federal government. We must, as freedom loving individuals, stop expecting the federal government to be the bubble wrap to protects us from life. We must regain our agency in controlling our own lives, our privacy, and our freedoms. As a one-time supporter and believer in the Patriot Act, I can now say there is nothing at all patriotic about the Patriot Act, and it is time for it to be removed from the books. It had its time, but that time has passed, and it must now come to an end.