It was spectacularly great news: Freedom had triumphed, and our flag was still there. Occasionally in a nation’s history, sanity abruptly intervenes when a few heroic figures save the day by finding the courage to do what is right.
Such a rare moment occurred on May 31, 2015. A once-resistant U.S. Senate was compelled to follow the lead of a whopping majority in the House of Representatives and allowed three key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act to meet their long-overdue death.
Amid the hysteria following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an opportunistic President and frightened Congress shamefully betrayed the Constitution’s assertion of the virtue of limited government power and the sanctity of individual liberty. Thus was born the draconian USA PATRIOT Act—a misnomer if ever there was one. Signed into law by George W. Bush on October 26, 2001, it became the pretext for the massive invasion of our individual privacy. So much for the Fourth Amendment, which enshrines “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
Even the author of the PATRIOT Act— Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, a conservative Wisconsin Republican—was shocked when he learned through the revelations of NSA contractor Edward Snowden how the government had perverted the purpose of the law. In November 2013 Sensenbrenner announced, “The constant stream of disclosures about U.S. surveillance since June has surprised and appalled me as much as it has the American public and our international allies. I have therefore introduced legislation along with Senator Patrick Leahy [D-Vermont], the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that will curtail surveillance abuses and restore trust in the U.S. intelligence community.”