In the wake of 9/11, President George W. Bush signed the PATRIOT Act into law; allowing government entities to, among other things, wiretap phones, seize voicemail messages and then detain non-citizens indefinitely. Twelve years ago — just over one month after the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. — the nation was caught up in a sweeping sense of patriotism and anyone who spoke against things like the PATRIOT Act was ostracized.
Since then, views have changed and national security scandals have become commonplace. Over the course of the past week, a man by the name of Edward Snowden leaked scores of classified government documents detailing the National Security Administration’s monitoring of thousands of American citizen’s phone and email records, as well as user data taken from the servers of companies like Google and Facebook, without their knowledge or consent, fled to Hong Kong and is now living as a fugitive, facing possibly a lifetime in a federal prison if he is extradited. His current whereabouts are unknown.
All of this was done in the name of protecting citizens of a country that was founded on the idea that people should have control over their government. But now, citizens are losing their control and losing their freedom. I’m no fan of comparisons to George Orwell’s “1984,” but the fact of the matter is that our government is watching us, biding their time until we allow them, either through indifference or ignorance, to watch more.
“The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to,” Snowden said. “There is no public oversight.”
This is not a new revelation. Since September 11, 2001, the government has been taking steps to protect its citizens from an enemy vaguely called “the terrorists”. In the pursuit of this enemy they have illegally wiretapped phones, held suspected terrorists for years without trial at Guantanamo Bay and tortured inmates being held there. Maybe we didn’t really care because we had other stuff going. Or maybe it was because it didn’t really affect us. Well now it does. We stand at the precipice of a critical point in our nation’s future, a point where we must draw the line between protection and privacy.
Edward Snowden took the first steps in calling attention to the wrongdoings of our government.
“My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them,” Snowden said.
And now that we know, we must make our voices be heard.Snowden said that he has learned that “you can’t wait around for someone to act… leadership is about being the first to act.”
It is time that we all took Snowden’s lesson to heart and stand up for ourselves.