Wednesday September 21, 2022
When the Patriot Act was rammed through in the aftermath of 9/11, lubricated by a fresh round of fear courtesy of the Dark Winter anthrax letters, civil liberties advocates and even a few politicians warned it would spell the end of freedom in America. The legislation package, drawn up nearly a decade previously by such avowed enemies of the US Constitution as prison-packing plagiarist Joe Biden and torture-loving amygdala tease Michael Chertoff, gave the government unprecedented power to surveil communications without warrants or probable cause. Its outrageous overreach was abused to justify bulk data collection and open-ended fishing expeditions so long as the threat of terrorism or a need for foreign intelligence could be invoked.
We were told that “they” - the nebulous Terrorists lurking behind every government the neocons wanted to overthrow - hated “our freedoms,” then encouraged to believe that the only way to guarantee our survival was to ditch those freedoms ASAP. I was still in high school at the time and wasn’t well-versed in the inner workings of psychotic death cults, but even my uninformed mind could see through the sudden surge in knee-jerk jingoism to the raw fear quivering beneath, begging for Big Brother to make the monsters go away.
The threat of further “terrorism” in the form of envelopes full of anthrax targeting the few Patriot Act’s main detractors in the Senate and the media establishment proved the nail in the coffin of American sanity. No one asked why the “terrorists” about to get flattened by the American war machine would be trying to kill off the handful of congressmen who stood in the way of that flattening - Fort Detrick’s finest had made clear what happened to people who ask questions, even (especially) blindingly obvious ones. The neocons even provided the newly-minted congressional converts with a face-saving measure, allowing them to explain their absolute failure to protect their constituents’ rights by claiming this state of affairs was just temporary: the most egregious aspects of the Patriot Act were to be outfitted with self-limiting “sunset” clauses that would allow them to be retired when the nation had returned to its senses.