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The NSA, phone "meta-data" and the Patriot Act.
June 18, 2013 - Jordan Travis
It's time to fix the Patriot Act. Since the disclosure of phone data collection and Internet data mining by the NSA, Pres. Obama has said he'd be willing to review the law, adopted amid the hysteria immediately following 9/11. It might be that as our lawmakers review this law (several provisions of which was scrapped by the Supreme Court shortly after being passed) they'll find, or we should tell them, that it ought to be fixed like a chipped glass: with a short trip to the trash bin.
Why try to fix a law that would allow such grotesque invasions of our privacy? It's clear that a law that would allow for the subversion of what we hold dear as Americans has no place in the books. So maybe I ought to revise my opening statement: It's time to junk the Patriot Act.
Instead, maybe our lawmakers should look at the lessons we learned from 9/11 and our battle against terrorism foreign and domestic since then. This includes the Boston bombings (as an aside, having known several Chinese international students, I felt especially sad that Lingzi Lu would come to America to learn, only to die in a terrorist attack). Using these lessons, and the ones we learned from the many instances of Patriot Act-compliant government over-reach, we could come up with a replacement. Something that could protect us from our enemies here and abroad, while protecting our freedoms at the same time.
You know it's time to change when Ai Weiwei, famed artist and dissident, tells the Guardian that America is behaving like China. This coming from a guy who was arrested, ostensibly for tax evasion, but almost certainly for his criticism of the Chinese government. Rather than defend these odious programs, Obama and his administration ought to be laying them out for all to see, and asking everyone: Here's what we're doing, is your safety worth it?
We're starting to get a sort of sanitized version of that with the Congressional hearings that started Tuesday, served alongside a heaping pile of "ends justify the means" bluster about the terrorist plots this phone call data helped to foil. Unfortunately, we're also hearing missives eerily similar to those given by George W. Bush when the "roving wiretaps" program was revealed: it's a threat to national security that we're even discussing this.
We can't allow that same mentality to lull us in to accepting the gradual erosion of our freedoms.
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