Recently, Verizon confirmed that it had responded to subpoenas and released information on all its wireless customers to the Justice Department. Later in the week, the other major carriers followed suit, admitting they, too, had responded to federal demands for information.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle were quick to come to the defense of the DOJ. After all, this was not wiretapping; the only information the carriers released was the parties involved and the duration of the calls. Move along – nothing to see here, right?
If we’ve learned anything from recent events, it’s that we can’t trust this administration to respect individual civil liberties. Ask the Associated Press reporters whose phones were bugged. Better yet, ask Fox News reporter James Rosen who was named as a criminal conspirator in the DOJ’s successful end-run around the Constitutional protections traditionally afforded members of the Press.
Ask the conservative political groups whose election year fundraising was hamstrung by a concerted (and successful) effort by IRS officials to stifle voices of political opposition. This Nixonesque abuse of power have been rightfully condemned, again, by members of both political parties.
Recent events beg the question, what is the most outrageous scandal currently plaguing this country? Is it the apparent stonewalling and cover-up of the tragedy in Benghazi? Is it the administration’s seeming disdain for a Watchdog Press? How about the targeting of the political opposition by the IRS?
In my opinion, it’s none of these. I find each of these occurrences outrageous, but the biggest outrage is that the seeming apathy many Americans feel regarding these events.
The lack of outrage over this administration’s disregard for the Bill of Rights is the most outrageous and troubling thing happening in this country now.
The worst part of this is that we have no one to blame but ourselves. Although civil libertarians railed against the Patriot Act when it was first enacted, the act passed the Senate 98-1 with one abstention. In the most recent renewal, the vote was 74-8.
The FISA Amendment that allowed this recent broad casting of surveillance nets passed both chambers of Congress in 2008 and was renewed for five years again last year. In each case, the vote was nearly a three-to-one margin in both the House and Senate – for both Acts.
What we’re seeing now is simply the results our own apathy. We have decided to sacrifice our civil liberties in the interests of security. How well is that working for us? We could ask a couple hundred people who attended the Boston Marathon this year or the families of those slain in the Fort Hood terrorist attack.
The argument that no one should be worried about the government’s intrusion into our privacy unless he or she has something to hide is a specious one under the best of conditions. Given this administration’s track record, the fact they have these records is truly alarming. After all, what suspicious activities did the Tea Party and other conservative groups engage in that made them targets for governmental malfeasance?
The biggest outrage is that we, the people, seem willing to let these outrages go unpunished. I will concede that it is not easy to regain a personal freedom once it is lost, nor is it a simple matter to strip power from a grasping and greedy federal government. It will be a monumental task to evict Big Brother now that we have invited him into our house.
It will take time to regain our lost freedom. It will take us demanding accountability from our elected officials and their appointees. It will take money to unseat career politicians who are invested in the status quo. It will take toil, sweat, and resolve.
Mostly, though, it will require outrage.
S.B.Jackson is a disabled Army veteran of the Persian Gulf War. Jackson lives in the Greater Salt Lake City area, where he remains active in volunteer work and political activities. The author of one novel, several short stories, and an occasional contributor to the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News, Jackson is currently working on a compilation of short stories.