As you probably forgot, jihadis affiliated with Al-Qaeda killed more than 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001. Since then, thwarting terrorism has been a top priority of American policy and discourse, and the country has agreed, kind of, that even longstanding interpretations of the Bill of Rights are less important than the threat posed by radical Islam. Also since then, self-proclaimed jihadis have killed 26 Americans, while domestic right-wing and anti-government terrorists have killed 48. Those numbers come from the Washington research group New America, as summarized by this article in the New York Times. Ask most candidates for public office, and Muslim terrorists are an existential threat to the United States. Ask law enforcement, and the bigger problem is right-wing extremists.
Last week, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act, which modifies the blanket surveillance programs the NSA was totally going to tell us about before Edward Snowden committed treason by telling us first. Obviously, the USA Freedom Act is a big improvement on the Patriot Act. Look at the names. Patriotism is good, but it’s only a means to certain ends: namely, USA and freedom. Now that both those elements are secure, we can put Randy Paul back in his original packaging and sleep tight, right? That seems to be the message. If there’s one thing we know just hearing the name of the USA Freedom Act, it’s that Congress wants to assure us everything is cool. Perhaps that should give us pause.
At 12:01 this morning, thanks to that villain Randy Paul and, to a lesser extent, the guy who told us about it, the US government lost its authority to collect Americans’ phone records in bulk. The Patriot Act has expired. I assume you are reading this from the point of a scimitar, at the other end of which gibbers a bearded zealot. Perhaps you have already become an ISIS or, worse, a copyright infringer. Perhaps you are one of the handful of Americans who remain free, for now. Don’t panic. Probably, most major US cities will be anthraxed between now and lunch on Tuesday. But the strong can survive. You just need to take a few precautions.
Good news, you
guys terrorists: the foreign intelligence surveillance court order that authorizes the NSA to collect calling data on every American expires Friday. Also, ambiguous news, you guys: President Obama plans to ask FISA to extend the program for another 90 days, but he will also ask Congress to end it. The secret domestic surveillance program that for the last decade has been totally legal and okay will go away now that we know about it. I’m pretty sure that means the terrorists won. Thanks a lot, Edward Snowden.
Yesterday, Dianne Feinstein told the Senate that the CIA had hacked into and deleted files from computers the Intelligence Committee used to investigate agency waterboarding and interrogation techniques, calling the spying a “defining moment” in the oversight of American intelligence. It sure felt that way. Back when
whistleblower traitor Edward Snowden revealed that the agencies were spying on the American people, Feinstein vigorously defended the secret electronic surveillance as an indispensable tool in the fight against terrorism. Later, when we learned that the NSA and CIA had also spied on foreign heads of state including Angela Merkel, our elected representatives lost their minds—a hypocrisy Snowden identified in Feinstein again yesterday. Call it the Merkel Effect.