A little over a month after the attacks of 9.11.2001 our government passed the USA PATRIOT Act. It was intended to give the government tools to fight the people who attacked us, but in our haste to make those tools available we did more harm than good.
In the 3 days between October 23rd and 26th of 2001 the 342 pages of the USA PATRIOT Act were introduced into the House of Representatives, passed through all committees, passed in the House and Senate and finally signed into law by President Bush. That is really fast by any standard.
Even though much of the content of the USA PATRIOT Act was controversial, there was no debate. Fear ruled the day, which is understandable because the months after the attacks were a really scary time.
The one saving grace of the USA PATRIOT Act was its sunset clauses. They made it such that many of the more controversial provisions would expire unless the government voted to re-authorize them. It was a brilliant fail safe mechanism put in at the behest of Republican Representative Richard Army to keep our fear fueled legislation from becoming permanent.
I started paying attention years later in 2008. In my attempts to understand how our government was dealing with the PATRIOT Act I wrote a 3 part series called Figuring out FISA.
I learned a lot about the history of privacy and the rights afforded by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights while researching and writing those posts. But when I wrote them, decisions had already been made, votes had been taken and I was writing about history.
A Second Chance
Tomorrow at 10am EST our government is voting to keep or remove some of the nastier parts of the PATRIOT ACT.
Fix the USA PATRIOT Act is a great post by Jim Burrows explaining, in simple terms, where things stand and what you can influence the vote and the future of our civil liberties. It's a quick read and the videos are really interesting. All told, if you take action to influence the vote, it will take about 17 minutes out of your day.
I'm investing that time and more because I feel that it's critical to the fabric of our country that we fix the mistakes we made in those fearful months of late 2001.
Please have a look at Jim's Fix the USA PATRIOT Act post and help us to Get FISA (and the PATRIOT Act) Right.