Samuel Johnson wrote “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Never has this adage seemed more true:
October 26 [marked] the 10th anniversary of the USA Patriot Act, the first among many bipartisan government assaults on the Bill of Rights over the past decade. It is a time to mourn our lost freedoms.
Our constitutional rights have dramatically eroded, turning the “land of the free” into the “land of the easily intimidated.” We have traded liberty for a false impression of security, and we will regret it.
President Bush originally signed the Patriot Act into law on Oct. 26, 2001, and – despite documented, recurring and ongoing abuses – President Obama has signed reauthorization bills no fewer than three times. Even though more than 400 cities and towns, plus eight states, have issued official resolutions repudiating domestic surveillance, the national security juggernaut has continued to steamroll the Constitution.
The FBI, the National Security Agency and the CIA deploy battlefield surveillance technologies to monitor law-abiding Americans en masse, claim an increasingly vast share of the federal budget and disclaim any meaningful limits on their disturbing powers.
And courts routinely defer to ridiculous claims that topics embarrassing to the government – like outsourcing torture to other countries, or monitoring the e-mail and phone calls of hundreds of millions of Americans without any individualized suspicion – constitute “state secrets” that must be protected for national security reasons.