Yesterday, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein spoke in praise of the Patriot Act, a law that has established a regime of Big Brother government spying on Americans, with a documented record of an immense number of abuses.
Much of the time, the Patriot Act is used to target Americans who are not even suspected of having anything to do with terrorism. Under the Patriot Act, Americans are rightly suspicious that the government is tracking their personal activities. We can have no reasonable reassurance that our constitutional rights are being maintained under the Patriot Act, given that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which is supposed to check and make sure that the Patriot Act is not being abused, is empty and non-operational. The cloud of government surveillance hangs over us, corroding the trust and openness that is necessary for the healthy operation of a democratic society.
Senator Feinstein says that Americans should tolerate these threats to their freedom, because we are under threat. What kind of threat? Feinstein explained yesterday, “This is a time of heightened threat – maybe no specific threat, but certainly heightened threats.”
Dianne Feinstein is on the Senate Intelligence Committee. She gets regular briefings about threats of terrorism against the United States.
What she admitted yesterday is that there aren’t any threats. There aren’t any known terrorist plots. All of the government’s spying, here in the U.S.A and around the world, have led to the conclusion that the United States isn’t in any kind of specific danger.
All that Senator Feinstein can say to justify the passage of the Patriot Act is that “this is a time of heightened threat” – but what does that mean? It means that Senator Feinstein is worried that somebody somewhere might decide to do something to harm the United States, though she has no information that any such plans actually exist. “Heightened threat” refers merely to fear, not to any concrete information.
Threat of that kind always exists. Life is inherently risky. People die all the time. Every now and then, an individual or an organization acts on a violent obsession. These threats are completely normal, and we should not significantly alter our lives because of them.
Americans are dying right now, in huge numbers. They’re dying in tornadoes. They’re dying of disease. They’re being killed in wars. Many of them are dying in car accidents.
Americans are not dying in terrorist attacks.
We don’t need the Patriot Act. Politicians like Dianne Feinstein crave the Patriot Act because they’re afraid, without any specific cause for their fear.
The United States of America has gotten in the habit of being afraid, but we don’t have to live in fear any more. No one has any information that anything bad will happen if the Patriot Act expires. Nothing in life is certain, but all signs point to the conclusion that, if the Patriot Act is allowed to face away, we’ll be okay.