Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act expires at midnight tonight, so Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called the Senate back in session, putatively beginning at 4 pm today, to hash out a PATRIOT Act reauthorization that will (ideally, for him) include a reauthorization of the scheme in which the NSA vacuums up all your metadata from your cell phones and emails. Could it be that with the news that the PATRIOT Act's bank reporting requirements made the prosecution of Dennis Hastert possible, that Congress will finally do the right thing and let the damn thing die? I kid, of course -- most Congressfolk think that kind of thing happens to other Congressfolk. But we've got a slew of action alerts opposing the surveillance state -- from Roots Action, the ACLU, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and the People's Email Network. I recommend calling your Senator afterward, as well. Sen. Paul (R-KY) has indicated he'll force Section 215 to expire tomorrow by withholding unanimous consent on any further vote attempts, and good for him if he does -- but let's not be complacent.
Why do we oppose the Big Gummint spying supposedly authorized by Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act? For the best of reasons: because we care about privacy and security. Of course we built this country partly on the notion that if you're not hurting anyone, you should be left alone, and the fact that I think corporations hurt people more than my conservative brethren do doesn't change that. But PATRIOT Act proponents love to suggest that PATRIOT Act opponents don't care about security, but the method of security Mitch McConnell seems to prefer -- to vacuum up all the place/time data of all Americans, regardless of whether or not our government thinks they're involved in foreign terrorism -- actually makes us less secure, by bombarding our intelligence agencies with more data than they could possibly ever sift through. And so it goes that our own government -- which, as you might imagine, is rather invested in telling us that their spying makes us safe -- has told us, more than once, that the NSA's bulk data-vacuuming program isn't a particularly effective terror-fighting tool.
Of course, we all know that breaking the death grip of corporate power over America would be the most effective terror-fighting tool, but restraining the power of our government so it doesn't have the power to inflict terror upon us will probably have to do in the short term. Perhaps we haven't said that enough -- while it's a bit facile to say, as Ronald Reagan once did, that a government that can do anything for you can do anything to you, certainly granting our government a power they could abuse so that they could do anything to you is a mistake. And if we could have a government that could wiretap your phones without warrant at the same time it stood apparently helpless as a Category 5 hurricane smashed one of our most vital port cities, certainly we can have a government that responds to our will to restrain corporate power while leaving us alone to tend our gardens. Indeed, this is what we fight for every day here.