Beyond the satisfaction that “justice” was done with the killing of Osama bin Laden, he left a legacy in our country and courts that is disturbing to me.
Is that legacy “beating” us now?
After 9/11, the White House and Congress (both parties) passed sweeping legislation which gave our investigatory agencies new powers of intrusion into our lives. Most people felt these new laws were necessary to discover intelligence and information that terrorists could use against us. I’m certain that in many instances, the new laws and procedures used by U.S. security agencies worked as the Congress intended. They also created a massive new system of counterterrorism with huge budgets and more people.
This concerns me because:
1. The fear that we all felt after 9/11 caused us, as a country, to give our own security agencies more power to probe into our personal lives much easier. As an example, the restrictions on wire-tapping and other means of gaining private information were relaxed under the idea of “warrantless surveillance.” All these laws still remain on the books and are used by the government. How do we know they won’t be used against innocent citizens under the guise of investigating terrorism?
Think of the internment laws used against innocent Japanese-Americans during the heightened fear of WWII. In retrospect, we are all embarrassed by these actions and can see clearly how fear drove the Congress and public to enact laws that went much too far in combating internal security risks.
And think of how intrusive and scary the IRS can be…these new laws give the U.S. security agencies a lot more power.
2. The “War on Terror,” by definition, will go on indefinitely. Does that mean these intrusive laws will be on the books indefinitely? Have we given-up significant portions of our privacy for ever? These rights of privacy are uniquely American and I hate to see them compromised. They protect us from a too-powerful government. The new laws allow more warrantless surveillance tactics–could these be used against innocent people rather than terrorists? Who defines what a “terrorist” is? Will this go on forever?
So, in a way, has bin Laden achieved something more than perhaps he even intended? Have we Americans given-up our democratic rights of privacy and civil liberties because of the fear he caused? I hope we never see another attack on our shores, but if that happens will we pass more laws giving-up even more of our privacy?