A Decade of Secret Tyranny
by Bob Bauman
Ten years ago today, on Oct. 26, 2001, President George W. Bush signed into law the odious legislation known as the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act, perhaps the single most unconstitutional enactment by the U.S. Congress since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1789.
A panicked Congress, eager to be seen as “doing something,” overwhelmingly passed the law only weeks after the Sept. 11, 2011 terror attacks in New York and Washington.
In an atmosphere of palpable fear, with haste and secrecy, in the name of the “war on terrorism,” Congress adopted the Act without hearings, giving the U.S. executive branch and its police agencies sweeping powers that undermine both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The Act was passed with little debate by senators and congressmen – most of whom did not, and could not, even read the bill. When the vote was taken no final printed copies were available.
Other than civil libertarians and those who have suffered under this law, a decade later, like the congressman who voted for the Act, most Americans still know little about how drastically the Act restricts their rights and liberties. (For a copy of my detailed expose of the PATRIOT Act Report, click here.)
One of the principal reasons for this public ignorance is that the Act imposes enforced silence on those it touches with its operations, threatening them with fines and jail if they publicly discuss what happens to them.
Section 215 of the Act violates the Fourth Amendment by allowing government police to conduct searches without a warrant and without showing any probable cause and the FBI has used Section 215 to obtain financial and even medical records. This provision violates First Amendment free speech by prohibiting those who are served with the orders from disclosing that fact to others, even where there is no real need for such secrecy.
This secrecy is only a part of an alarming system of government mass surveillance that has been erected, about which most Americans know very little.