America. No Longer the Home of the Brave but the Scared S*#tless

Today, for the first time in years, normal everyday Americans can theoretically make a phone call without the government spying on them. That’s because just after midnight last night, Section 215 of the Patriot Act expired.

Section 215, of course, is the part of Patriot Act that the NSA uses to collect the phone records of millions of people. Lawmakers had known for months that it was going to expire, but thanks to opposition from Rand Paul and a handful of other senators, the Senate was unable to come to deal to extend it and several other key parts of the Patriot Act before a midnight deadline.

This, of course, is a big PR victory for Paul, who’s banked his entire presidential campaign on his history of standing up to the surveillance state. It’s still too soon to see, though, whether or not this will have any real, lasting victory for privacy rights.

That’s because while Rand Paul got the campaign highlight he wanted when the government began shutting down its bulk metadata collection program, Congress could, in just a matter of days, reauthorize that program with only a few cosmetic changes.

You see, at the same time as Rand Paul was hamming it up for the cameras last night, the Senate voted to take up the so-called USA Freedom Act. Passed by the House earlier in May, this bill would extend the three parts of the Patriot Act that expired at midnight and make a few minor changes to the NSA’s mass surveillance program. But despite its nice-sounding name, the USA Freedom Act is really just more of the same.

Shahid Buttar of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee explained why when he came on this program a few weeks ago. Now, Mitch McConnell will allow Senators to make amendments to the USA Freedom Act, but the only thing that’s really going to put the legacy of the Bush years behind us is to let the Patriot Act expire entirely -- as parts of it have already done.

Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen. Come Tuesday or Wednesday, the Senate will probably pass the USA Freedom Act and the NSA’s mass surveillance programs will go on as before, with a few minor changes.

That’s because in the 14 years since President Bush signed the Patriot Act into law, American society has fundamentally changed -- for the worse.

We’re no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave; we’re the land of the kind-of-free and the home of the scared silly. The Patriot Act and the post-9/11 terrorism freak-out didn’t just radically enhance the power of our intelligence agencies -- it also had a huge impact on our culture.

We’re now a “see something, say something society,” a society that is always on the edge of all-out paranoia.

We’re scared to death of terrorism, even though you’re more statistically more likely to die in a car accident, drown in a bathtub, or get struck by lightning than you are to be killed in a terrorist attack.

If someone says the word “terrorism,” we’ll throw away our freedoms in a second, even if there’s no proof that doing so will make us any safer. Politicians know this, which is why many are making it sound like the apocalypse is going to rain down on us unless we reauthorize the NSA’s mass surveillance program.

President Obama is part of the problem. He supports the USA Freedom Act, and warned in his weekly address Saturday that allowing the Patriot Act to expire would leave America open to attack.

On the other hand, it’s been 20 hours since Section 215 expired, and as far as I can tell, the country’s still standing. Which makes sense, because the NSA’s mass surveillance program has never been definitively proven to have stopped any terrorist attack whatsoever.

Ever since the scared little men of the Bush Administration came to Washington, we’ve let ourselves be scared by everyone and everything. It’s time for that to stop, and it’s time for us to regain the freedoms -- and courage -- we lost 14 years ago when the Patriot Act first passed.

We’re the home of the free and the land of the brave. Let’s start acting like it again, and let the Patriot Act expire.


stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 7 years 52 weeks ago

When it gets to the point where most Americans are willing to put up with daily cavity searches for a false sense of security, invite the Chinese and Russians to take over; it couldn't possibly get any worse.

ezwriter's picture
ezwriter 7 years 52 weeks ago

Just because the NSA says it's no longer spying, how can anyone really be so sure? How can we trust anything the corporate government tells us any more? They are poisoning us with fluoride, aspartame, and spraying us with toxic aerosols. When are the people of this once great country going to WakeTF up?

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 7 years 52 weeks ago

Seems exceedingly doltish to fear terrorism and simultaneously ignore global warming!

Willie W's picture
Willie W 7 years 52 weeks ago

Golf ball size hail. High winds. Heavy snow on the roof. Tornados. Floods. I worry more about the weather than I worry about getting blown up at the mall. I think terrorism takes a back seat to the weather. Lets deal with the real enemy.

ChicagoMatt 7 years 52 weeks ago

I bring this up every time I see a thread about this sort of thing: people who think the government is "out to get them" or "eavesdropping" on them have serious ego problems. Because they seem to think that anything they are saying is so important as to warrant paying human ears to listen to them. There are HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of phone calls and emails made every day. There are maybe a few hundred people at the NSA who could, theoretically, listen in on a conversation. How many red flags do you think you'd have to raise in their system before you got the attention of an actual human?

This is similar to the righty's fears that the government will come for their guns. Just as self-important egotistical.

Think about all of the calls and emails you've sent in the last month. Has anything been even close to something that would get a human's attention at the NSA?

I mean, I get that it's the principle of it all - the fact that they COULD target your data if they wanted to. It just seems like there's a whole lot more important things to worry about.

UNC Tarheels's picture
UNC Tarheels 7 years 51 weeks ago

I agree with Obama on this one. The reason 9/11 happened was we were not ready. Just like 07 Dec 1941 at Pearl Harbor Hawaii. We thought it cannot happen here. But once it did the military didn't stop until every plane was splashed and every boat that participated was in the attack was sank. The Japanese wanted to make a second attack but the Japanese Admiral said no "because we have awakened a sleeping giant." On 11 Sept 01 the giant was again awoke. But instead of attacking the people and country responsible for the worst attack on US soil retaliated against the wrong country and destabilised a region which opened the door and created al Quieda in Iraq which then gave way to ISIS or ISIL. Which now leads to disenfranchised US person being recruited to fight against the United States. The NSA program should be re authorised the intelligence community need the tool to track people who are being recruited to fight against the United States. We cannot afford to fall back into complacency the cost is more than we can bear. As Don Henley sang "This is the end of the innocence" Just as Dec 7th changed America in 1941, America was again changed on Sept 11 2001. I also know what every foiled terror plot in this country is not reported for good reason the American people need to go on about thier daily lives they would be unable to do that if they heard the daily breifing of classified intel from the CIA and the NSA or from the JTTF.

telliottmbamsc's picture
telliottmbamsc 7 years 51 weeks ago

BINGO! They are going to do anyway, with or without 215,

There is just to much money and wealth they are desperate to keep secure.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 7 years 51 weeks ago

Please forgive me for posting something that is off-topic, but I couldn't resist sharing this biographical article about Bernie Sanders. I got it off of Facebook and it is fascinating! Check this out:

ckrob's picture
ckrob 7 years 51 weeks ago

We were unprepared for seventeen guys here legally, using box cutters, and our TSA fails around ninety percent of tests still? As adults we might say "they'll get though on occasion" but it's not worth throwing away our rights for pseudo-safety. Maybe we should stop making enemies faster than we can kill them and their friends.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 7 years 51 weeks ago

Chi Matt -- You would think there would be more important things to think about. Are you aware that prior to the republican convention, police broke into homes that were planning to protest. That sounds to me like the people on this blog should be concerned.

The NSA could not provide an example to the congress of a single instance where the bulk data collection provided any worthwhile intelligence.

Data mining certainly means they can go after any annoying protest they don't like. They can use the data mining algorithms without effecting their other activities.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 7 years 51 weeks ago

UNC Tarheels -- For Pearl Harbor we were not prepared. For 9/11 we had a overwhelming amount of intelligence telling us it was going to happen. Just ask Rand Paul. As Thom has pointed out, W on a trip to Italy prior to 9/11 stayed on board an A/C carrier because he knew of a plan to fly an airplane into a tall building. Richard Clarke was running around the White House a month before 9/11 telling everyone it was going to happen.

stoptpp's picture
stoptpp 7 years 51 weeks ago

George Bush 2 is the biggest appeaser in American History. First, he said, " they hate us because we are free", and next, he rammed through the Patriiot Act.

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