What I Want For Independence Day: Freedom From the Patriot Act

A prominent evangelist and former security hawk explains why the U.S. government has gone too far in spying on its own people

  • Share
  • Read Later
Getty Images

I was born in 1946, the same year that Winston Churchill declared that an “Iron Curtain” had crashed down rending asunder both Berlin and Europe into East and West. From my earliest memories there was avid talk of nuclear war, bomb shelters and “duck and cover” drills in grade school. The Cold War filled the entirety of my conscious memory, “Checkpoint Charlie” was an iconic place, and the Cuban Missile Crisis happened during my sophomore year in high school. As a consequence of this life experience, I was from my early adolescence onward a lean-forward, “better safe than sorry,” security hawk.

No more. In light of the recent revelations concerning the National Security Agency’s electronic surveillance activities, I have now crossed the surveillance Rubicon. I adamantly oppose the blanket electronic information gathering of American citizens’ phone and email communications and I have lost basic trust in the U.S. government not to violate my constitutional rights.

(MOREOur Double Standard of Privacy)

Because of what’s at stake, I also believe Edward Snowden’s outing of the government’s unconstitutional activities was admirable. If he had then voluntarily surrendered himself to face prosecution for breaking the law,  his version of “A Letter from the Birmingham Jail” would have been heroic. But by fleeing, seeking asylum, and possibly revealing damaging information to our adversaries, his behavior has been despicable.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks I supported, with reservations, the passage of the Patriot Act. Even then, I argued strenuously, albeit unsuccessfully, for the legislation to be temporary and time-limited, thus up for mandated periodic review and renewal by the U.S. Congress. I should have known better.  The NSA and its progenitor, the U.S. government, have engaged in rapid “surveillance creep” going far beyond anything imagined in the post 9/11 legislation.  If not checked now, the expansion will continue with ever more intrusion into our personal lives, routinely violating our Fourth Amendment guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure. The treasure trove of unconstitutionally gathered data on American citizens is more temptation than any government, by nature, can withstand.  If not stopped, sooner rather than later, government will mine that information mountain for their own purposes of power and control.

(MOREOur Antiquated Laws Can’t Cope With National Security Leaks)

People say we need to do this comprehensive surveillance to protect our country from terrorist attacks. But as Benjamin Franklin said in the eighteenth century, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

If we accept this gross infringement on our constitutionally guaranteed liberties, then the terrorists will have succeeded in destroying our American way of life and severely eroding our God-given freedoms. At present the NSA’s activities pose a far greater threat to our liberty than the Al Qaeda terrorist network ever has, or ever will.

Our government says that we should trust them. Really? In light of the NSA surveillance revelations, the Internal Revenue Service’s massive abuse of power, the Fast and Furious scandal and F.B.I director Robert Mueller’s acknowledgment that some drones have been used for surveillance inside the United States, I think not. Whether it is a flaw in the inherent nature of government, or simply President Obama’s Administration, is irrelevant. The flaw is real, and the threat it poses, is looming before us.I read George Orwell’s 1984 when I was in high school in the mid-1960’s and it truly frightened me. Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA’s excesses have caused me to reflect on Orwell’s nightmarish vision of a totalitarian future more than I have in many, many years.

I love my country and I would die to defend her.  However, the federal government is not America, it merely governs America with the consent of the governed. So this is my declaration of independence. Speaking as one American citizen, I withdraw my consent. As for me and my house, I say, “Cease and desist!  In the name of God and the United States Constitution, cease and desist!”

MORE: Homeland Insecurity: After Boston, The Struggle Between Liberty and Security

54 comments
anti-government
anti-government

Right on!

Some of us have been saying the same thing for many years but I guess a turncoat former hawk has more credibility than those of us who have been fighting the military-industrial complex since we Americans tried to conquer Vietnam with bombs and money in the 1960s.

The basic problem is American arrogance, and that came roaring back during the Reagan years as people forgot our embarrassing and pointless losses in Vietnam.

We have killed far more CIVILIANS with bombs than all the nations and terrorists in world history put together.

When it comes to terrorism with bombs, WE'RE THE TOP!

HAMDAOUI
HAMDAOUI

We already have "Speech Gestapo" and institutionalized hypocrisy controlled by moral self-indulging politically correct friendly neighbourhood "thought police" replete with moral indignation telling you what you are allowed to say or think. The best defence against the real threat to our security, freedom and democracy is full public disclosure, for the public has the need to know. Everyone should be upfront and transparent, and the rights of the people must take precedence over the selfish rights of the individuals. Privacy is bourgeoisie and has no place in a modern society.

MaxKnish
MaxKnish

Dr Richard Land and the group of fundamentlists he heads overwhelmingly supported GW Bush in the 04' and 08' elections. Bush instituted the Patriot Act. Maybe Land should do a little soul searching. He is more responsible than the average citizen for its existence. Actions have consequences Mr. Land.

PhillipHansen
PhillipHansen

Patriot Act...the most Unpatriotic act ever by the US Government. If Osama wanted to destroy our freedoms then that act is doing it.

christianle
christianle

Dr Richard Land is an American patriot who loves his country sharing his honest thought and view from a spiritual and democratic lense. However I still pray that God protects America and richly bless America and the people of America who will continue to stand for God, truth, justice, mercy, and compassion! Long live America!

ShirleyLRoy-Poche
ShirleyLRoy-Poche

You had to add in the name of God, and that made the whole thing bogus and discriminatory. . . not what the original governing body had in mind, actually, it was to be free  from others Religious views also!

sallyedelstein
sallyedelstein

Truthfully I would always remember my first July 4th. What better place to be inculcated with truth justice and the American way than at a honest to goodness mid-century 4th of July parade. All over Long Island suburban residents were abuzz over the fact that our towns parade was cosponsored by those Cold War Crusaders of truth from "The Crusade For Freedom" the privately funded donation drive that raised "truth dollars" to support Radio Free Europe. Learn more about celebrating July 4th Cold War style

http://envisioningtheamericandream.com/2013/07/05/july-4th-celebration-cold-war-style-2/

 

tyshire1
tyshire1

Why is the government borrowing money from a private bank (The Fed), with interest, when the U.S. Constitution gives the government the power to print money interest free? Can someone answer my question?

tyshire1
tyshire1

The war on terror is a MYTH. Did the President close the borders after 911, NO. All of this is designed to give the CENTRAL BANKS of the G7 absolute CONTROL. They want to stick a RFID chip under your skin and CONTROL every aspect of your life, turning you into their SLAVES. I wish I was crazy, but it's happening. 911 was only the beginning.

RobertParent
RobertParent

I will sign on to your petition to cease and desist

CluedIn
CluedIn

The link on the front page reads, "An Wish for July 4th." My wish is that Time and all the other bastions of "journalism" hire more editors and pay them with the salaries from the programmers who create those annoying popups that always make me click to another web site.

MuricanBob
MuricanBob

If you genuinely believe Edward sNOwden is NOT a traitor then you are automatically gay and in al Qaeda ("el Qaeda?) and gays automatically go to hell. It's all right there in the bible written by the good lord himself! Liberal freaks!!!! MURICA! BUSH 2016! ;)

gbruncot
gbruncot

Dr King was risking days of Jail - Edward Snowden is risking death penalty.  Is it not light to tag as despicable his choice - considering the head of the NSA lies on record to its overseeing authority the senate, and senator Diane Feinstein, a senator expected to be part of this check and balance - named him a treator only based on revealing the extent of the surveillance?

At the end of the day the results matters - and if I had to compare three actions: Clapper's lying, Diane Feinstein statements, and Edward Snowden revelation, it is clear to me which one serves the most this country, its community, its value and honor most the people that died for those. 

AlexVallas
AlexVallas

Why is it so difficult for people to understand that the NSA is not spying on Americans?  They are collecting computerized data (META -after the fact) that monitors calls made to/from foreign countries suspected of housing potential terrorists.  If there is grounds for suspect, the NSA needs a court order to actually monitor the conversations and e-mails.  People have to think logically.  How many people would it take to monitor all phone calls and e-mails generated in the US?  Undoubtedly, an impossible task - but  putting it in perspective - it would be one on one so it would take tens if not hundreds of millions of people.  There is nothing in what Snowden did that is admirable.  If concerned about US freedoms, he should have approached one of the Tea Party senators like Rand Paul or gone to a member of the Supreme Court instead of fleeing to a country that is hardly the bastion of freedom.  He revealed secrets to China -- a country that restricts access to the internet, has a horrendous human rights history, hacks our computers and steals our military and industrial secrets and processes, produces and sells counterfeit products that harm not only our economy but those of many other nations.  He went beyond concern for the US when he let other countries know of our survelliance.  I am positive that was not news and they are doing the same thing.  It is necessary to know if there activities that could harm our security or econonmy.  Snowden is a less than well educated individual that should have NEVER been given a security clearance.  He is not a patriot - he is a traitor. 

StephenSwain
StephenSwain

It is a truism that most of our worst faults are exaggerations or distortions of our best qualities.  Dr. Land has rightly pointed out that surveillance creep, mission creep, numbness creep, are inevitable parts of the process IF the watchmen and watchwomen we have elected to look out for our larger-scope affairs lose their focus.  The history of the past five years, as between the Legislative and Executive branches of the US government, has been disgraceful, disastrous, and repugnant, whether you merely want to "go along to get along", whether you are a "liberal" or a "conservative" or a first-cousin to Mr. Clean.  The chair of the Senate Intelligence committee, Diane Feinstein, is 80 years of age.  She has been co-opted by the relish of secrets, and the diabolical charms of those who discover them, make them, and hide them. She has become part of the problem, not part of the solution to our longer-term security.  And she is not alone in this.  There are too many antiquarian senators and representatives who haven't entertained a fresh thought since they got to Washington.  Their departure is way overdue.

It's time to let in some fresh air.  It's time for Mr. Obama either to get off his poor-little-abandoned-boy hobby horse, for the purpose of making peace with his internal adversaries, or to face impeachment for his own failure of vigilance, balance and honesty.  The most transparent regime in history, forsooth!  His regime has consistently overreached.  They have fixated on drone strikes and surges and partisan wrangling, none of which may have been of their choosing, but they have completely lost their objectivity and their effectiveness.  They are losing the respect of their peers around the world, for having overreached, for having spied on their "friends", and for having broken faith with the electorate who chose them over the most hapless candidate since Calvin Coolidge or Warren Gamaliel Harding.

It's time that the electors get off their hobby horses, too.  We are rapidly circling the drain of history, and we have overtaxed all our legitimacies.  We need to wake up, slap ourselves on the face, look squarely in the mirror, and start repairing this debacle.  

Otherwise, we deserve what we will very soon have created:  Insolvency, illegitimacy, and chaos.

swcowan3
swcowan3

Between building a wall on our southern border and spying on our own citizens, the USA is resembling Communist Germany during the Cold War.  I remember RR's 'tear down this wall' speech at the Brandenburg Gate, yet today we have his party advocating building a similar wall along our border.  And to 'protect' us, the government must spy on us????  Shame on them, and shame on us for tolerating this mess.

JonAdams
JonAdams

The trend began with the War on Drugs --  in rem seizure of property used in drug crimes,  surveillance,   turning drug abusers into felons,  privatization of prisons run by a parasitic form of capitalism.   The end of the Cold War required new justifications for the miltiary-industrial-security state.    The War on Terror brings with it looser definitions of "enemy combatant"   "aiding the enemy" .. in fact   it brings with it a bogus enemy:  Terror.    9-11 was an excuse to carry out a War for Oil in Iraq, and also the greatly expanded surveillance state ---- in many cases operated by contractors and mercenaries, who are the Barbarians of the American Empire.

tovangar2
tovangar2

"I withdraw my consent" Well said.

Disco_House
Disco_House

The problem set in with the Triumph of the Arch and Alien 'Soverign' Federal Government over the states in the Civil War.

EileenFleming
EileenFleming

Orwell in 1948 understood that despite the Axis defeat, "the will to fascism had not gone away…the irresistible human addiction to power were already long in place…the means of surveillance in Winston Smith's era are primitive next to the wonders of computer technology…most notably the Internet."-Thomas Pynchon, Foreword, Centennial Edition "1984"

"Universal peace and justice are the goals of man, and the prophets have faith that in spite of all errors and sins…[and] although under the illusion of fighting for peace and democracy…all the fighting nations lost moral considerations…the unlimited destruction of civilian populations…atomic bombs…can human nature be changed so that man will forget his longing for freedom, dignity, integrity, love-can man forget that he is human?"- Erich Fromm, Afterword, Centennial Edition "1984"

"1984, yes I read it many times and many years ago.1984 is here..."-Mordechai Vanunu [Israel's Nuclear Whistle Blower] "Beyond Nuclear: Mordechai Vanunu's FREEDOM of SPEECH Trial and My Life as a Muckraker 2005-2010"

 

brimcp
brimcp

The only thing I really disagree with is the notion of "god given rights" ..... if I recall, god never gave anyone "rights."  He allegedly gave moses commandments that had to be obeyed (if some guy claimed to have spoken with a burning bush in today's world, he would be put under observation for mental health), and then he allegedly gave his only son to atone for our supposed sins (contrary to popular belief, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want just as long as you believe in jesus, and still get into "heaven" .... and interestingly enough there hasn't been an immaculate conception since paternity tests became available).  Our rights were declared by a group of old guys that had to compromise and contradict themselves in order to put together a guide to governing our republic.

AdrianWong
AdrianWong

@tyshire1

Your ignorance and paranoia is staggering...

First of all, the Federal Reserve is NOT a private bank.

"The authority of the Federal Reserve System is derived from statutes enacted by the U.S. Congress and the System is subject to congressional oversight. The members of the Board of Governors, including its chairman and vice-chairman, are chosen by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The government also exercises some control over the Federal Reserve by appointing and setting the salaries of the system's highest-level employees. Nationally chartered commercial banks are required to hold stock in the Federal Reserve Bank of their region; this entitles them to elect some of the members of the board of the regional Federal Reserve Bank. Thus the Federal Reserve system has both public and private aspects."

Also, the interest gets paid back to the US Treasury...


"The U.S. Government receives all of the system's annual profits, after a statutory dividend of 6% on member banks' capital investment is paid, and an account surplus is maintained. In 2010, the Federal Reserve made a profit of $82 billion and transferred $79 billion to the U.S. Treasury. This was followed at the end of 2011 with a transfer of $77 billion in profits to the U.S. Treasury Department."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Reserve_System


WAKE UP!

ShirleyLRoy-Poche
ShirleyLRoy-Poche

@tyshire1 because what we have become is a society of consumers, it is what the 70's born generation wants cause they have been told all their lives not to think just listen to what they are told by retailers.  Our politicians are in gov not in service to the citizenry but in service to banking, insurance, and international corporations.


Reagent
Reagent

@tyshire1 Art 8, Sec 5:  To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures

Coining money is physical coins which have a value in and of themselves. Pull out a fiat currency note (referred to as money these days) and see who printed it ... the Fed, not the govt.

RobertParent
RobertParent

@gbruncot Like his father said... he betrayed his government, but he did NOT betray the people

StephenDing
StephenDing

@AlexVallas do you actually believe that China, Russia, and the rest of the world needs the likes of Snowden for secrets? If China is already hacking the US, China wouldn't need Snowden. they'd just turn him away. On the other hand, since when is it ok to monitor your own citizens without telling them? at least in China, you know what you're up against. meanwhile in the US, a country of supposed freedom and transparency...

j.villain1
j.villain1

@AlexVallas  

You have now had members of 3 agencies say that they are recording entire phone calls and all emails. How much longer are you going to live in denial? The enemy of the government is the people not supposed terrorists.  

RobertParent
RobertParent

@AlexVallas I have been argueing for 20+ years to tell others that when you give up you rights to the gov.... you never get them back.  When everyone was falling for the "tough on crime" BS back then....and then ...when their child in imprisoned for a manditory sentence for a small amount of marijuana they say... "we meant the criminals, not our child"...I say ..."you voted to give up your right and theirs"


CluedIn
CluedIn

@AlexVallas By that logic that Stasi never spied on Germans. Wonder what we would have said about that during the Cold War?

And we just *know* they go to the courts, don't we? The Soviets had the same protections in place in their constitution. How come we didn't buy it? The courts never throw things the politicians' way, like in 2000 when they suddenly unilaterally decided they had the power to elect a president by declaring set-in-stone deadlines that previously never existed and which they had no written permission to set. We know the courts are always honest, right?

You don't deserve what few freedoms America has left, and you should be thrown out. Bodily.


MuricanBob
MuricanBob

Ally you are my hero!! We need to eliminate all these liberal fktards!! Lets get bush back in charge!!!!!! MURICA

rick.schrager
rick.schrager

You would do well to look at the larger picture before parroting what you've read in the media. There is a larger story with more players. Snowden is not the first whistleblower nor will he be the last. Take some time to look into William Binney, who he worked for, what he found, what he said and what happened to him for saying it. You'll find out why a high ranking official at the NSA now works with the EFF trying to protect your rights. There is indeed more than metadata at stake. PRISM is only a piece and Verizon is not the only carrier.

While you are at it, take a look at what the Carnivore system did back in the early nineties, long before the Patriiot Act. It too was only a piece of a larger system.

The government can and does lie about what they're doing. Make no mistake about it. Your basic freedom is up for grabs and the worst thing you can do is perpetuate the lies you've been told.

We must ask ourselves, where will this end? At what point will the constitution fade until its only a shadowy concept? Perhaps not in my lifetime but is that all that matters? I'd like to think not.

RobertParent
RobertParent

@StephenSwain Very nicely put.  I fear that the division of the public into extremes serves the gov.  There cant be a true revolution among a divided people. 

JoshuaOzersky
JoshuaOzersky

@StephenSwain We have already gone down the drain of history, much as the Roman republic did. We are insolvent (millions hungry, 60% of the country's wealth in hands of a few scumbags), illegitmate (two stolen Presidential elections and rampant Jim Crow voter fraud), and in a state of chaos (a million people in prison, laws openly flouted, the congress reduced to a joke.) Wake up, sheeple! It's already over.

williammwhite
williammwhite

@disasterjunkie4ever What is it that you're too ashamed to say if it's tied to your "REAL" identity?  Why do you need the protection of a hooded cloak to speak your mind?  Linking to real identities promotes accountability and discourages trolls.

CluedIn
CluedIn

@swcowan3 > And to 'protect' us, the government must spy on us????

Most Americans probably don't know this, because most Americans don't know anything about history, but when the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 they said they came to "protect" them as well. They used the same justification for spying, tapping their phones, photographing their mail. Now we find out the USA does exactly the same thing, including photographing every piece of mail that goes through the U.S. Postal System, as was just admitted by the Obama administration yesterday. How is this any different?

JonAdams
JonAdams

@EileenFleming    how was Orwell able to predict Fox News?  [  Two Minute Hate]     Freedom Fries?   [victory gin]

Reagent
Reagent

@brimcp "... endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights ..." The Creator referred to here and in many places of our founding documents is not the Christian God. Many of the Founding Fathers, and Jefferson in particular, believed in at most, a creator who made the universe and then left it to run as it will.

Research the "Jefferson Bible" to see where he stood.

CluedIn
CluedIn

@brimcp > Our rights were declared by a group of old guys that had to compromise and 

> contradict themselves in order to put together a guide to governing our republic.

What's interesting is is you look at what those guys with the wigs said anyone today would be thrown in prison for it and branded a terrorist by Fox News.



postingonline42
postingonline42

@brimcp the "god" of jefferson and washington was a Deistic god. See Voltaire and the Enlightenment for reference. They rejected the bible but believed the Creator's will could be read into the laws of science. They most definitely believed human rights were god-given. Washington also believed that Free Masonry was the future of America and that America would abandon Christianity. I learned this from a course in American History from the "great courses" series. Of course, learning stuff does me no good because when I know something that is not common knowledge, no one likes it and I just get thumbs down on the internet for saying it or interrupted and shouted over in real life. But there it is. Christians are wrong in saying "this is a christian nation" and atheists are wrong in saying rights are our government's loan to us in the immediate present. 

EileenFleming
EileenFleming

@brimcpRIGHTS must be seized and we the people have RIGHTS we have NOT seized -that is if we truly HOLD these truths to be self-evident: That all [people] are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights...that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among [people] deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; and, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the RIGHT of the people to ALTER or to ABOLISH it. -The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

ShirleyLRoy-Poche
ShirleyLRoy-Poche

@RobertParent @gbruncot no, whoever put him up to it betrayed the people (I understand the whole spying on each other bit and they all do it and anyone that reads or watches anything of substance was already aware (the Patriot Act you dummies but then there it is!) - the people fight the wars and provide the tax dollars - snowden wants notoriety and that is all, and some people with motive and more than fluff-for-brains are seeing that he gets it.


AlexVallas
AlexVallas

@StephenDing @AlexVallas I was very clear in stating China and Russia are hacking US agencies and coampanies.  Further, they don't want him.  You and a couple of others are talking about the government "monitoring" our citizens.  You should spend a little time reading what the NSA progam entails.  Unless you are communicating with a suspected terrorist overseas you are not monitored. 

AlexVallas
AlexVallas

@CluedIn @AlexVallas Are you comparing the US to East Germany?  Are you referring to me being thrown out?   CluedIN - I have served in six embassies as a member of the USForeign Service and am an Army war veteran.  Don't even presume to question or give me lessons on democracy.   If you are so dissatisfied, it is you who should leave.  I don't disagree regarding Bush being appointed by the Supreme Court but that is irrelevant in this discussion. 

swcowan3
swcowan3

@CluedIn @swcowan3 I know, trust me!  My neighbors think this is what is needed to protect us from the 'boogie men'... depending on their beliefs, the boogie man can be black, brown, gay, arab, young, old.... in other words, anyone different!  It's a shame how our politicians have exploited the fears of the populace, isn't it?

ShariaMayfield
ShariaMayfield

@postingonline42 @brimcp I think focusing on the word "god" is irrelevant/a decoy. If you don't believe in Him, then substitute it with "inalienable" freedoms and the message is still the exact same.