In November 2019, establishment Democrats joined forces with establishment Republicans to once again, reauthorize the Patriot Act. House Democrats have completely obfuscated their role as an opposing party to the Republicans on this issue. We have two parties that favor government spying and zero parties that are against it.
Even more sinister, they sneakily put it into a budgetary bill. Of course if they actually had hearings on reauthorizing the Patriot Act their constituents would flip out, so they just put everything as a tiny clause in a much larger bill. This is a common tactic the government uses to pass bills they know the people would disagree with.
The Patriot Act was first passed shortly after the 9/11 attacks, and the 2001 anthrax attacks. The act originally passed in the House by a vote of 357–66 and in the senate 98-1. Only one senator opposed this bill!!! Still today, almost 20 years later, the Patriot Act still infects our democracy.
The Patriot Act has given the government the ability to conduct warrantless surveillance on United States citizens. It allowed the government to explicitly spy on anybody they consider a terrorist, as well as allowing them to collect bulk data on cellphone calls of millions of innocent Americans. Rather than looking at the content of the phone calls, they collect data like the time of the call, location of the call, and other pieces of information called metadata.
In 2015 a judge ruled that section 215 of the Patriot Act violates the 4th amendment. This was the section that authorized collection of metadata. The judge ruled that they can only collect information “relevant to an authorized investigation.”
In response to this ruling, the government passed the USA Freedom Act which is an extension of the Patriot Act. This act allows for a “two-hop” rule. This means that the government can collect data on anybody they suspect of a serious crime, anybody that person talks to, and anybody any of those people talk to. This virtually still allows the government to collect data on people without a warrant.
Revelations of the last 20 years put into question, whether or not the Patriot Act has not been used to stop terrorism. A 2013, a panel from the White House concluded that the Patriot Act “was not essential in preventing attacks.”
Its funny how the roles seem to be reversed. It’s the government, who demands to know what its citizens are doing. It’s the citizens, who aren’t allowed to know what its government is truly up to. Shouldn’t the government have to be transparent to the people and not the other way around? While the House Democrats are fighting for impeachment, they are at the same time pushing laws that would increase the Trump administration’s spying capabilities.
Luckily, the act was renewed for only three months, so this issue is going to come up again shortly. Its time to contact the congress people of your district and demand they do away with the Patriot Act once and for all. The best thing we can do to combat this is to spread the information like wildfire. The government is spying on us, lets stop put a stop to it.