It must have been odd to live in an analog world where we could exist without a digital network of prodding interests and curious eyes peeking over our shoulders.
We live in a world of tracking. Whether it’s our credit cards, cellphones or Facebook and Twitter accounts, someone you don’t know can find you at any time.
If you’re not using these services, someone you know is, and they’re using them constantly.
Private companies, along with you, own that information. You agreed to the terms of service with a party that agreed to keep your information private. This isn’t a problem, because these are voluntary services. You can choose to be without a cellphone, Facebook or even a credit card.
But then there’s the Patriot Act. The 2001 anti-terrorism legislation, which was extended in May by President Obama, weakens the wall between the government and the private companies that hold our information.
The legislation was written and signed into law during the panicked post-9/11 frenzy of government action.
Those suspected of terrorist activities have their email, financial, medical and phone records rummaged through at the discretion of the federal government.
More serious is that those deemed unlawful combatants, which can be American citizens, can be detained indefinitely and denied access to a lawyer or to those accusing them.
It’s curious that the government would be concerned with our safety to such an extent that they must reserve the right to rummage through our personal information at will, but our borders remain unsecured.
It stands to reason that making it as hard as possible for a terrorist to enter the country in the first place would be a better course of action than diligently watching if they purchase fertilizer at Home Depot.
We at The Plainsman don’t have a problem with our government being able to respond swiftly and effectively to national security threats, but the potential for the abuse of this act is obvious.
We must think of the history of this nation.
Our system of government is built on the idea that the people are the ultimate authority. As such, any growth in power on the part of the government is always at the expense of the people it represents.
Whether the act has been used responsibly until now is debatable, but more important is how it will be used in the future.
How will terrorism be defined? What makes a person a “lone wolf?” At what point is someone worthy of investigation?
Why should the government stop at terrorism when they could prevent domestic violence, kidnapping or murder using warrantless investigation?
What we’re suggesting is the mission will creep and change, and the scope never narrows, but can only broaden.
Superseding all of this is the Constitutional argument.
The Fourth Amendment states that Americans are free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
The Fifth Amendment states that Americans cannot be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.
The Sixth Amendment states that Americans have a right to a speedy and public trial, as well as a right to the assistance of counsel.
The Sixth Amendment also states that Americans have the right to be confronted with the witnesses against them.
The Patriot Act is a gross misuse of the people’s authority, and to allow it to exist guarantees trouble ahead for us all.