11 Years Later: “Temporary” Unconstitutional Post 9/11 Security Laws Won’t Go AwaySeptember 11th, 2012
Throughout history, politicians have used the political climate caused by disasters to ram through legislation that would likely never otherwise pass. As current Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel, once said from the standpoint of a politician, ”You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”
During the most disastrous events that face mankind, rights-abusing laws are passed under the guise of temporary measures with sunset clauses. Now, on the 11th anniversary of the devastating 9/11 attacks, civil liberties once held as sacrosanct in American culture have vanished into the dustbin of history, crushed by allegedly temporary emergency laws that have overstayed their welcome and will not go away.
The Unpatriotic PATRIOT Act
Shortly after the tragic and shocking attacks on September 11, 2001, politicians began scrambling to find ways to appeal to the public mood of fear and anger. Rather than investigating the bureaucratic failures that allowed individuals to carry out the attacks, officials became suspicious of anyone and everyone else, including American citizens.
A month later, the USA PATRIOT Act was signed into law. This bill was a compilation of a variety of unconstitutional security measures which had failed to pass in the past. Government officials could now pilfer through citizens’ library records and financial transactions without a warrant. Roving wiretaps were authorized. The NSA began compiling emails and eventually text messages from private citizens en masse. Under this law, FBI agents could investigate virtually anyone for essentially arbitrary reasons.
Recipients of National Security Letters were bound by a gag order, disallowing those being investigated from discussing their situation with anyone, including a lawyer. Just like that, the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments to the US Constitution were essentially shredded by an act of Congress, originally sold as temporary, but reauthorized again and again since that time.
Thanks to efforts by then-Congressman Bob Barr, a sunset clause was included in the USA PATRIOT Act to allow the legislation to expire. However, each time it has expired, politicians have reauthorized it, despite the fact no further attacks have occurred nor been prevented by any of the civil liberties brutalizing measures in the bill. In 2011, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul attempted to filibuster it, only to see it illegally re-signed remotely via autopen by President Obama.
But Wait, There’s More!
Rather than allowing the temporary measures to expire, further abuses continued. The Transportation Security Administration was created during that time, charged with monitoring airline passengers in an effort to prevent further hijackings. No fly lists were created. Right away, countless stories popped up around the country of children being denied the right to fly on airplanes due to being mistakenly included on the list.
In time, the TSA was placed under the Department of Homeland Security. Former DHS head Michael Chertoff convinced his previous employer to sign a lucrative contract with a company of his which developed the extremely dangerous and questionably useful radioactive body scanners that travelers must be exposed to, even to this very day. To discourage passengers from opting out of body scans, the TSA began conducting sexually invasive “enhanced pat downs” which go far above and beyond the type of touching allowed by law enforcement officers.
Years after the state of emergency associated with the 9/11 attacks had calmed down, President Obama signed what was arguably the most aggressive anti-civil liberties legislation in modern history, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011. Provisions in this military appropriations bill end the due-process rights first recognized in the Magna Carta. American citizens accused of terrorism are no longer guaranteed the right to a fair trial.
Over a Decade Later, the Measures Are All Still in Place
It’s hard to recognize contemporary America. Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year old Denver-born American citizen, turned up on Obama’s new extra-judicial kill list, mistakenly identified as a 21-year old militant. He lost his life in a deadly drone strike, an accidental victim of murderous bureaucracy, proving the need for due process protections. Another citizen, US Military veteran Brandon Raub, was recently detained by authorities for statements made on Facebook. After a couple brief interviews with psychiatrists, he was sent to a mental institution for 30 days. A judge eventually set him free, noting that the detention was unlawful, but many others face the same fate. Brandon Raub had an excellent lawyer, but many of those in a similar situation do not.
Those of us who had concerns about civil liberties when these measures passed were told that they were temporary. 11 years later, the unconstitutional measures are still in place and more abusive than ever. It’s time we look at restoring our civil liberties before the trend slips further in the direction it has already gone. If we give up our freedoms for a false sense of security, then the terrorists have won.
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