The Patriot Act – 15 Years Later

Officially: The PATRIOT Act is an Act of Congress that was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. With its ten-letter abbreviation (USAPATRIOT) expanded, the full title is “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.”

One of the things about our Republic that scares me is the fact that people have been conditioned to look to government to solve all their problems and remove any and all risk from their lives. With the track record, our government has in running things, I don’t trust them to run a burger joint or an ice cream stand.

Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Obamacare, VA, Amtrak, IRS, EPA, etc. are all full of corruption, abuse of power, fraud and waste. So why do we beg such an inefficient, corrupt and wasteful entity to have so much power? We seem all too eager to give up our liberty for a perception of security.

In the end, are we any safer?

This Phone Is Tapped from Flickr via Wylio

© 2006 Alex GaylonFlickr | CC-BY-SA

First off, what is the financial cost? Estimates are that the “No-Fly List” has cost $2 billion. Because of the NSA surveillance, it is estimated US tech companies will suffer losses between $22 and $35 billion from people and companies going to other services over just the next three years. I have searched and cannot find any estimate of the total financial cost of the act on the nation.

What is the benefit? Are we actually safer? Where do we draw a line on what is too much cost or too much loss of liberty? For instance, we could shut down all foreign travel, ground all airlines. That would certainly prevent terrorism, and the cost would be unbelievably high. The proponents of the Patriot Act would have you believe there is no cost at all, but the simple fact it added an entire government agency makes that impossible.

What of the benefits of the Act? Are we safer? There have been numerous terror attacks in recent years. I counted 115 terror attacks since 9/11/2001. This includes ALL attacks, even those thwarted and many that might have been criminal acts rather than terror, including domestic acts by activists. In 15 years and a nation of 320 million, that is not very many.

Several senators have pointed out that that the NSA and its supporters have yet to point to any evidence their collection of metadata was necessary for stopping any terrorist activity.

Has anyone done a “cost-benefit analysis” to determine if the cost is justified? Of course not. The odds you will be killed in a terror attack are incredibly low, yet some would scare you into believing this is quite likely to cause your death or to one near and dear to you.

You are more likely to be killed by a toddler than by a terrorist. The risk of being killed by terrorism compares the annual risk of dying in a car accident of 1 in 19,000, drowning in a bathtub at 1 in 800,000, dying in a building fire at 1 in 99,000, or being struck by lightning at 1 in 5,500,000. In other words, in the last five years, you were four times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist.

With today’s media and 24-hour news cycle, terrorism is flashy and gets a lot of attention. Attention equals ratings and money both in the media and government. And for those who want to increase the size and scope of government, and who don’t respect the original intent of the Constitution, terrorism is an excellent opportunity.

Should we ignore the threat of terrorism? Absolutely not! But efforts need to be within reason, and with a real recognition of both the costs and the benefits. We don’t spend nearly as much trying to prevent death from fireworks, yet they’re 14 times more likely to kill you. You’re nine times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist. Yet, we don’t violate everyone’s privacy to stop cops from killing people. You are 4,706 times more likely to be killed by alcohol than a terrorist. And yet… drink up. People take risks. We certainly try to minimize those risks but within reason.

Is Someone Reading Over Your Shoulder? from Flickr via Wylio

© 2005 Matt SFlickr | CC-BY


We’re well aware of the NSA collecting more than just metadata, thanks to Wikileaks and Edward Snowden. Every email, every call is recorded and stored. Of course, there is no way someone is listening to and reading every word. However, if someone wants to go after you, the information is there. I wonder how General Petraeus was caught? Maybe someone searched the NSA records.   How about the rumors regarding Justice Roberts changing his vote on Obamacare at the last moment. Maybe there was a record of something illegal or embarrassing?

Consider some of the things the Patriot Act allows that the Constitution does not. Congress does not have the luxury of writing law that violates our freedom and the Constitution. Watch this video regarding warrants.








Obamacare was passed in the House after Nancy Pelosi famously said, “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it – away from the fog of the controversy.” She was not the first. Attorney General John Ashcroft said the same thing about the Patriot Act.

I was appalled during the presidential debates when Chris Christie showed no concern over obvious 4th amendment excesses and even argued with Rand Paul over the issue. While I was appalled, I was not surprised. Many republicans are big government progressives. They have to be, otherwise, they would never pass or fund these excesses.

Most people are unaware of the true cost of this Act, in lost liberty and dollars. We need to wake up and hold our politicians accountable. The Patriot Act should be deposited in the trash.

Photo Credit: “Image from page 121 of “Scenes from the life of Benjamin Franklin” (1916)”, © 1916 Internet Archive Book ImagesFlickr | PD



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