Congress is debating whether to renew the USA Patriot Act. This legislation has, on balance, successfully prevented the U.S. from being attacked on a large scale by Islamist terrorists since 9/11. The law is not perfect. For instance, when we go through airport security we experience the often groping paws of TSA agents who should focus on profiling Islamist terrorists and their sympathizers who are the demographic most likely to perpetrate homicidal attacks on American travelers and the U.S. transportation system. The National Security Agency’s bulk collection of data is overly broad and should be more tightly focused on probable terrorist perpetrators.
However, the claims of Patriot Act critics, such as Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and assorted leftist apologists, that the Patriot Act is somehow unconstitutional are hogwash. They fail to understand that the 4th Amendment was not designed to deal with a world of interconnected global communications and finance though it still retains immense value and importance in our personal lives. In our highly interconnected globe, we no longer have the expectation of complete privacy. Everytime we go online or make a phone call we forfeit the guarantee of absolute privacy. Critics of this legislation also forget that terrorists and hostile national government also use cutting edge technology to carry out their nefarious aims. We need to have the National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor emerging threats to our national security. We also need to remember that in the shadowy world of intelligence and terrorism, action must be taken immediately to deter and defeat the perpetrators of evil who seek to destroy us and our society. The idea that a judge’s authorization is required to conduct a search or surveillance of suspected terrorists communications is a quaint relic of the pre-digital communication era.
Critics of the Patriot Act need to realize that unless they are plotting a terrorist act, they are highly unlikely to be drawn into the NSA’s surveillance dragnet. At the same time, we must remember that planning terrorist acts involves the virtual crossing of multiple national boundaries making obsolete traditional notions of national sovereignty. Th recent declassification of portions of Osama Bin Laden’s bookshelf by the Director of National Intelligence reveals an enemy who, besides being evil incarnate, was keenly interested in using our democratic freedoms to kill Americans and destroy vital national infrastructures.
Failing to renew the USA Patriot Act would be an act of suicidal stupidity! As Americans we still cling to the pathetically utopian notion that we can withdraw from the world’s problems. We thought this was possible nearly a century ago until events such as the sinking of the Lusitania and the Zimmermann Telegram brought us into World War I. During the 1930’s, we persisted in the delusion that we could avoid the rise of Nazi Germany and Hirohito’s Japan only to have the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor slap our face into reality.
During the Cold War, we repeatedly experienced Soviet bloc aggression in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. We also came face-to-face with Islamist terrorism in the Iranian hostage crisis and in the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. After the Soviet Union, collapsed we foolishly believed we had reached the “end of history” only to see internecine violence erupt in the Balkans and the satanic fury of Islamist terrorism strike our shores on 9/11.
Today and tomorrow we may experience ISIS terrorists unleash their sadistic fury within our communities, we may see North Korea’s Kim Jong Un seek to reunify the Korean Peninsula with a ballistic missile strike against U.S. territories, China may seek to use its anti-access area denial capabilities and nuclear arsenal to keep us out of the western Pacific, Iran may achieve a nuclear weapons capability and use it in the greater Middle East or even against the U.S., and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is likely to continue his attempts to expand Russian power in Eastern Europe through force and coercion against what he understandably sees as a cowardly and retreating U.S. under Barack Obama.
It has been said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. The USA Patriot Act is a key bulwark of our national security and should be renewed promptly without weakening our ability to deter and defeat terrorist actions against us, our national interests, and those of our allies.