Sept. 11, 2001, is remembered for a number of reasons, and one of the most important, which often goes unnoticed, is that it was used as an excuse to degrade the liberties of Americans through the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act.
The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on Oct. 26, 2001—just 45 days after 9/11. The act passed in the Senate with a vote of 98-1, and it passed in the House with a vote of 357-66.
Former Texas Congressman Ron Paul was one of the few who voted against the act when he was in the House of Representatives, and he has been speaking out against it ever since. Paul is also known for his presidential campaigns, and when he was seeking the Republican nomination in the 2012 election, he reminded the world of one of the most crucial aspects of the PATRIOT Act.
“The PATRIOT Act was written many, many years before 9/11,” Paul said during a speech in Ames, Iowa, in December 2011. He noted that the attacks simply provided “an opportunity for some people to do what they wanted to do.”
The PATRIOT Act contained a number of provisions, which included bypassing the Fourth American, giving unprecedented power to the National Security Agency, and letting the Federal Bureau of Investigation search telephone, email and financial records of American citizens without court orders.
As the American Civil Liberties Union noted, a law that was passed in the name of fighting terrorism, instead worked against Americans by turning regular citizens into terrorist suspects:
“Hastily passed 45 days after 9/11 in the name of national security, the Patriot Act was the first of many changes to surveillance laws that made it easier for the government to spy on ordinary Americans by expanding the authority to monitor phone and email communications, collect bank and credit reporting records, and track the activity of innocent Americans on the Internet. While most Americans think it was created to catch terrorists, the Patriot Act actually turns regular citizens into suspects.”
The final version of the USA PATRIOT Act was 342 pages long and it changed more than 15 existing laws. Before signing it into law, Bush claimed the bill was so heavily approved because “it upholds and respects the civil liberties guaranteed by our Constitution. This legislation is essential not only to pursuing and punishing terrorists, but also preventing more atrocities in the hands of the evil ones.”
In addition to the question of how the House and Senate came together in such a short time to pass a law that had such a massive impact on the nation, there is also the question of how many members of Congress actually read the 342-page bill in full—and then there is the question of how the bill was written in the first place.
Ron Paul’s claim that the PATRIOT Act was written many years before 9/11, was echoed by former Counter Terrorism Czar Richard Clarke. According to one report, Clarke told Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig:
“After 9/11 the government drew up the Patriot Act within 20 days and it was passed. The Patriot Act is huge and I remember someone asking a Justice Department official how did they write such a large statute so quickly, and of course the answer was that it has been sitting in the drawers of the Justice Department for the last 20 years waiting for the event where they would pull it out.”
The USA PATRIOT Act was not the only thing the government pushed for right after 9/11 that would continue to impact the United States for years to come. As Paul noted in 2011, the attacks were also used as an excuse to invade Iraq, and to create a “War on Terror” that is still ongoing today.
“Think of what happened after 9/11, the minute before there was any assessment, there was glee in the administration because now we can invade Iraq, and so the war drums beat,” Paul said.
On the 16th anniversary of 9/11, it is important to remember that the United States government used fear and propaganda to capitalize on the loss of nearly 3,000 innocent lives, and it has gone on to take the lives of hundreds of thousands in the name of maintaining “freedom.”
The U.S. also used fear and propaganda to interfere with the civil liberties of millions of innocent Americans by hastily passing the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act—a law that has only created more terrorism, and while it has taken Americans’ liberties, it has also taken away their security.