Here We Go Again

November 18, 2015 by

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“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin, 1755.

“On Monday, in unusually raw language, John Brennan, the C.I.A. director, denounced what he called ‘hand-wringing’ over intrusive government spying.” N.Y. Times, November 17, 2015.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, Congress passed the Patriot Act, which greatly expanded surveillance of both foreigners and United States citizens. We gave up liberty and privacy to secure safety.

Recently, after the Snowden revelations about the scope of liberty and privacy that was sacrificed in the name of security, some in the government, and more importantly many citizens, recognized that the cost was too great, and began an important discussion about trimming back portions of the Patriot Act.

But now, in the aftermath of the ISIS attacks in Paris, the President of France has announced that the country is “at war,” and has proposed amending the French Constitution in response. He also seeks to extend a “state of emergency,” allowing expanded warrantless searches, among other cutbacks in civil liberties, for three months.

Predictably, the head of the CIA, has now joined in, using the attack in France to push back against protecting privacy and civil liberties in the United States. It couldn’t come at a worse time, given the impending presidential election. I fear that we will now see a renewed push to retain, if not expand, the most pernicious sections of the Patriot Act. If only Ben Franklin were still around!