Why the Patriot Act is Now Cool

An independent federal review board reportedly says National Security Agency (NSA) phone data collection program should end.

The report concluded that the NSA collection raises “constitutional concerns” with regard to U.S. citizens’ rights of speech, association and privacy. “The connections revealed by the extensive database of telephone records gathered under the program will necessarily include relationships established among individuals and groups for political, religious, and other expressive purposes,” it said. “Compelled disclosure to the government of information revealing these associations can have a chilling effect on the exercise of First Amendment rights.”

The panel added that the program “lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. [Source: Associated Press and Fox News]

There’s virtually no chance the Obama Administration will stop indiscriminate and unwarranted intrusions into the privacy of individual citizens. Nor can we expect its likely successor, a Hillary Clinton Administration, to do so either. (Nor will a Republican administration, if there is one. Remember that Dick Cheney strongly supports prosecution of federal employee whistle blowers, as well as the Patriot Act.)

When first running for office, Obama questioned the validity of the Patriot Act, and promised to secure protections for whistle blowers in government. Many of his most ardent supporters opposed the Patriot Act altogether, citing it as one of their major reasons for thinking George W. Bush an essentially fascist President.

Where are those opponents now? Why does Obama no longer express concern for unwarranted intrusions into American citizens’ communication, as he did when he said the following back in 2008: “I take the Constitution very seriously,” Obama said in 2008. “The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all. And that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m president of the United States of America.”

This from a man who now routinely uses executive orders to do anything he wishes, while openly bragging about it? And from a man who not only upholds the Patriot Act, but arbitrarily and indiscriminately expands it at his own discretion?

You might say it’s an example of power corrupts. But the truth is much worse than that.

“Power corrupts” applies to one individual holding power becoming corrupted. It also implies there was something to corrupt. Obama, like most politicians, started out corrupt before holding high office.

More than that: Obama does what he does knowing he has the full support of much of the nation, and the bored indifference of the rest. It’s fertile ground in which dictatorship may grow, whether exploited by Obama or anyone else.

The people who once opposed Bush’s enforcement of the Patriot Act while now supporting Obama’s reveal their true motives. It’s not principled support of individual rights, or even “privacy rights,” that ever concerned them. It’s simply a matter of which guy holds the power.

Obama’s core supporters like him because he supports the things they support—higher taxes, greater regulations, socialized medicine, and the like. They have no problem with a president who supports these policies doing whatever he wishes with his power. The proof of this assertion? The howls of discontent and outrage you heard when George W. Bush wielded arbitrary government power to a lesser degree than Obama does; and the complete absence of those howls today.

The Patriot Act, then as now, is an example of an open-ended, non-objective law. It cites a valid motive—protecting innocent individuals from the threat of terrorist criminals—while wording the law in such a way that it gives the federal government virtually unlimited power. The only way to oppose such a law with integrity is to take a principled stand in favor of individual rights, citing how the law intended to uphold those rights actually undermines them.

Obama supporters cannot do this. They oppose or evade individual rights in context after context: socialized medicine, confiscatory taxation, redistribution of wealth, nationalization of private industry, legislation via executive order. Socialism does not consist of upholding individual rights. Obama’s form of socialism, like any, is about sacrificing the individual’s legal and moral status for the sake of the collective.

It’s little wonder Obama’s supporters now are just fine with the Patriot Act. The rights and civil liberties of the individual never were (and still are not) their concern. Providing their kind of President with essentially unlimited power is.

When Obama upholds the Patriot Act, it’s suddenly cool.


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