It may be hard to believe but it has been 9 years since the Patriot Act was signed into law. The legislation was hastily pushed through congress after the September 11th terrorist attacks. It was designed to give the government more power to prevent terrorism in the future. But many have seen the controversial piece of legislation as a violation of Constitutional rights, most explicitly the Fourth Amendment. What the Patriot Act means today, is that search and seizure in the digital age has the danger of not being defined by the United States Constitution, but rather by a law designed to prevent terrorism. No one should be naive enough to think other wise, the intent of the law is to not only fight terrorism but lay the ground work for establishing search and seizure methods in the rapidly advancing digital age. Through briefly reading the Wikipedia article on the Patriot Act, I have come to the conclusion that the government no longer needs a warrant…….as long as its related to terrorism and national security….basically the law says, fight terrorism any way possible, Constitutional rights be damned. And while that may have seemed important in the aftermath of 9/11, is our fight against terrorism still more important than the Constitution today, 9 years and 5 days later?
Many will argue that the Patriot Act will expire and will not be foundation for search and seizure in the digital age. But to those who have that point of view I ask the fallowing question. Why does Congress keep renewing the Laws that were set to expire in 2005 in the original bill? This is not a Republican or Democrat thing because Congresses controlled by both parties have voted to extend. This is an American thing! We have become so concerned about National Defense and protecting our country from terrorist ( not that either of those things are unimportant) that we are willing to let ourselves be monitored and searched through means that violate our Constitutional right to protect ourselves against unreasonable searches and seizure. What have we as a country become?
This past weekend John Stewart and Stephen Colbert held their much anticipated Rally to Restore Sanity. I will be honest I did not watch one second of it, my plan the whole time was to watch the important parts on YouTube the next day. But that is not the point, the point is the title of their rally could not be more appropriate. Restoring sanity may be the most important step for this country to take as we struggle to move forward. Restoring sanity means waking up and saying the Constitution of the United States is what has guided the country for over 200 years, it has shaped the US into the country it is today, it has made us a great country. The Constitution has lead us through world wars, a civil war, a civil rights movement, and a cold war. If that great document can lead this country through that much, why can it not take on terrorism and the digital age too. The sane thing to do is realize it can and it will……but only if given the chance.