Passed amid the climate of fear and uncertainty that followed the 9/11 attacks, the Patriot Act fundamentally altered the relationship Americans have with the government. The bill’s passage opened the door to continued efforts to broaden suspicionless surveillance of Americans under the guise of national security, marking the beginning of a massive and unchecked surveillance state in the U.S.
As we approach the ten-year mark since the Patriot Act was signed into law, we’ve put together a new timeline that charts shifts in surveillance since 9/11, and unfortunately, it paints a rather troubling picture.
Through the Patriot Act and many other surveillance programs put into effect over the last decade, the government is systematically collecting information on wide swaths of Americans who are not suspected of breaking the law or being involved with terrorism, violating the rights of innocent people and squandering precious security resources. But there is still no public evidence that the Patriot Act has been useful in thwarting terrorist attacks. And, since the bill’s passage, there have been several reports outlining widespread blatant abuse of the statute.
Ten years later, it is time to stop loosening privacy standards that have been in place for over 200 years, and put an end to the government’s misguided approach that the more information the government collects, the safer we’ll be.