Again eschewing fundamental rights to privacy in favor of “security,” the US Senate passed an extension to the Patriot Act that if passed by the House (
likely, actually it passed earlier this evening according to the LA Times here) and signed by President Obama (likely) will extend and broaden the US government’s capacity to surveil suspected terrorists as well as now so-called “lone wolf” suspects who are not affiliated with a terrorism group.
I have briefly written about the Patriot Act before in a review of Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth’s “Critical Mass” here. I have always believed that the Patriot Act was an unnecessary piece of legislation that once passed would be difficult if not impossible to step away from. It grants the government considerable leeway in the way that they obtain legal authority to surveil suspected terrorists.
My concern is that how might the government now or in the future interpret what constitutes a terrorist. Like in the British science fiction television show Blake’s 7, a overly powerful government can apply the rule of law in creative and potentially fraudulent ways in order to silent critics. I hope that the Patriot Act or future US laws are ever perverted in this way, but if citizens are truly concerned about their rights and the application of law, we should decide as a people to not pass legislation that could be warped in a dangerous way by government officials with a headful of power.
Read more about the passage and debate on Bloomburg’s website here: Senate Approves Four-Year Extension of USA Patriot Act’s Wiretap Authority – Bloomberg.