Arguments against Patriot Act reforms 'weak,' unfoundedBy Eric Roddy | 05/26/2015 11:40pm
As I made my return journey to Tuscaloosa this past weekend down Highway 43 and through the town of Haleyville, I found myself searching for something on the radio to occupy my time. Settling on NPR, I found myself halfway into a recap of Rand Paul’s objection to extending the life of three of the Patriot Act’s major provisions – he was against even a 24-hour extension. The intensity of the Senator’s staunch opposition was reminiscent of many a “I don’t want the government spying on me,” retort. But how accurate is this accusation? Do we really know what this bill serves to accomplish, and if we did, would we still be against it?
I would wager that a large number of the opponents of the Patriot Act fail to realize exactly what it does. Created in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, it served as a swift means to gather terrorist intelligence. Many would be surprised to learn that the government’s collection of metadata as allowed by the bill does not include any audio from phone conversations. I can understand that collecting this much data at any given time could take away peace of mind from some, but to totally do away with this bill could prove to be problematic.
Personally, I find the arguments levied against the bill to be weak. I understand the desire for privacy, but the idea of the government using this information to gossip about you seems a little farfetched. Not to be cliché, but if people aren’t committing federal crimes, then why would it matter anyway? On a lighter note, and in no way do I claim to be an economics guru, but I seriously doubt that our solution to the national debt crisis will ever include the government selling our telephone numbers to private companies. Silicon Valley did that years ago.
I understand the skepticism. With Edward Snowden’s name a weekly fixture in national news, headlines taken at face value are very unsettling. However, claims of domestic ISIS accomplices seem even scarier to me. If the Patriot Act was directly responsible for thwarting even one potential terrorist incident, it would absolutely be worth it, and perhaps we wouldn’t question it quite as much.
To even the most steadfast opponents, reform seems to be coming to the Patriot Act, and it seems likely that the large scale collection of data will be reformed to target legitimate persons of interest. So rest easy, folks. If Obama wants to listen to your gossip, he’ll have to get a warrant first.
Eric Roddy is a senior majoring in philosophy. His column runs biweekly.