Don’t let the Capitol riot become a 9/11 excuse for authoritarianism – Reason.com
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, horrified Americans were ready to embrace virtually any proposal that promised to protect them. Government officials, for their part, were keen to curry favor with the fearful public and saw an opportunity to promote legislation and policies that had failed to gain support in the past. The result was a wave of authoritarianism from which the United States has yet to recover. Now, with the public understandably worried after the Capitol was taken on January 6, we should brace for another wave of political responses that, once again, would erode our freedom.
“We’re going to have to figure out how we control our media environment so that you can’t just spit out misinformation and misinformation,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) told his Instagram followers this week. “It’s one thing to have differing opinions, but it’s another to just say the wrong things. So that’s something we’re looking at.”
The socialist lawmaker doesn’t always pay attention to what she says, but it is worrying when officials talk about the need to “tame” the media in any context. There really is no way to present the government’s action to this end in a good light, regardless of the policy tools provided (Ocasio-Cortez’s office did not respond to a request for comment). Allowing government agencies to “master” the media is to put control of speech and the press in the hands of people who still see the benefit of being less scrutinized and criticized over their own activities.
This free speech could well take a hit, as shown in the collage law enforcement gets, allegedly, for being overly concerned with First Amendment rights ahead of the events on Capitol Hill.
“FBI intelligence analysts gathered information about possible violence involving the United States Capitol on January 6, but the FBI never distributed an official intelligence bulletin, in part because of concerns it would have. may violate protections of free speech, “NBC News reported. Tuesday.
The report goes on to reveal that in preparing for the protest that escalated into a riot, the FBI made share intelligence with other law enforcement agencies, neglecting only to publish an official joint intelligence bulletin. But the general impression left by NBC and the behind-the-scenes administration leaks upon which its reporting is based is that respect for free speech has stood in the way.
Since then, the FBI has made up for lost time by issuing a newsletter highlighting the “threat of violence” from a range of “ideologically diverse” extremists. The danger is real, as the violence of January 6 demonstrated. But so does the danger of an unbridled federal agency with a history of meddling in domestic policy debates, spying on activists, and even attempting to sabotage political parties – revealed in detail by the report of the 1976 Church Committee. An FBI stung for being too respectful of individual rights in the recent past may revert to its old ways in the future.
In its efforts, the FBI and its allied agencies are almost certain to have the support of the new president. After the capture of the Capitol, President-elect Joe Biden was harsh in his description of the attendees. “Don’t dare call them protesters,” he said. “It was a raging mob. Insurgents. National terrorists. It’s that basic. It’s that simple.”
Biden’s choice of language is interesting because, even before the election, his campaign promised to “work for a law against domestic terrorism” – an idea reportedly favored by his close advisers. It’s unclear what a new law would look like, but Biden has a track record with such legislation.
After the September 11 attacks, Biden claimed ownership of the Patriot Act, which has been widely criticized for damaging civil liberties in the name of fighting foreign terrorism. “I drafted a terrorism bill after the Oklahoma City bombing,” he said. The New Republic in October 2001. “And the invoice that John Ashcroft sent was my invoice.”
The uses that have been made of the Patriot Act since its passage should be alarming enough to be suspicious of any legislation proposed in response to the events of January 6.
“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 power to monitor telephone and electronic communications, collect bank and credit records. and to follow the activity of innocent Americans on the Internet, ”sums up the American Civil Liberties Union.“ While most Americans believe it was created to catch terrorists, the Patriot Act actually turns citizens ordinary suspects. “
“This is really a debate over the standard that our government should meet in obtaining personal information about individuals from banks, hospitals, libraries, retail stores, guns and other institutions, ”said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) pointed to the ongoing controversies surrounding the Patriot Act in 2011.“ Government agents should not be able to collect this type of information on law-abiding US citizens without showing at least some connection to terrorism or other nefarious activities. “
Twenty years after its passage, the Patriot Act persists, still threatening civil liberties.
“The government interpreted a high-profile provision of the Patriot Act as allowing FBI investigators to collect logs showing who visited particular web pages,” said Charlie Savage of The New York Times reported last month. “New tensions have arisen over the extent to which the FBI could use this law to collect logs of people’s web browsing activity, as opposed to the use of warrants – a tool that requires investigators to be first able to produce evidence that a person has likely committed wrongdoing., “he added.
Despite numerous complaints about the lack of a national terrorism law, the Patriot Act has had a significant and highly intrusive national impact on the privacy of Americans.
The fallout from 9/11 also brought us amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which authorized mass surveillance campaigns that were exposed by Edward Snowden and declared unconstitutional only last September. We have witnessed the creation of the frightening and incompetent Department of Homeland Security, and the subsequent transformation of air travel into an ordeal under the groping leadership of the Transportation Security Administration. It was all presented to a frightened audience as part of a needed response to the attacks in the hope that no one would notice the proposals had dusted on the shelves, just waiting for an opening.
“A lot of the changes don’t have much to do with the dangers we saw on September 11,” Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School told PBS in 2002. “A lot of these things are part of a wish list from intelligence agencies that they ‘ve wanted for decades. “
Given that the wish list of government officials regarding the expansion of powers is endless, and they have been demand new laws well before the Capitol is captured, we can expect a flurry of legislative proposals in the weeks and months to come. We will need to examine them very closely, assuming that they will be as dangerous to freedom as past schemes to protect us from real and imagined risks.