According to some, Ben Franklin said: “Those who would give up liberty for safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
Franklin’s quote was a little different and said under different circumstances — he couldn’t have predicted cell phones — but the underlying meaning is there, and it is evident. People who fear to the point of giving up freedoms in exchange for imagined security deserve neither.
That’s what Americans did after 9/11.
George W. Bush approved the Patriot Act. Americans who were paying attention were shocked to learn of the Act’s provisions. Under the legislation, the federal government could examine your banking records, tap your phones and even demand your local library to reveal what books you’ve read, all in the name of “catching terrorists.”
Like the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) before it, the Patriot Act was enacted to target specific criminal endeavors but has been used to prosecute other crimes.
Hastily passed a month and a half after 9/11 under the guise of “national security,” the Patriot Act was just the first of many changes to laws that made it simpler for the state to spy on average Americans. While most Americans think it was created to catch terrorists, the Patriot Act turns ordinary citizens into suspects.
Federal investigators hid behind the Patriot Act to seize the records of a Las Vegas strip club owner as part of a political corruption probe. Many critics said that use of the law violates the intent.
“The attorney general didn’t notify Congress that he wanted the Patriot Act to raid strip clubs,” said Laura Murphy, Washington DC’s American Civil Liberties Union legislative director.
“He told Congress that the Patriot Act was required to keep another life-threatening catastrophe from happening,” she added.
Michael Galardi, a strip-club owner in Las Vegas, was accused of bribing elected officials. The FBI used the Patriot Act to obtain subpoenas from a federal judge to seize Galardi’s financial information from stockbrokers.
Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo declined to discuss the case’s details but did emphasize that a provision of the law applies to money laundering.
Section 314 of the Patriot Act permits financial house to “share” information on individuals “suspected of possible terrorist or money laundering activities” with authorities. No advance notification is given to the suspect and all liability against the financial institution is waived.
“The Patriot Act being used against a Vegas vice lord should give pause to anyone who says hit has not been abused,” Murphy said.
David Keene, chair of the American Conservative Union, said the Patriot Act lowered constitutional safeguards and that the spirit of the law was infringed in the Galardi case.
Galardi wasn’t the first private citizen to find himself held by the throat.
One of the major leading cases of the Patriot Act used against an American citizen was the example of former CIA asset Susan Lindauer.
Lindauer, whose knowledge of pre-9/11 warnings might have brought down the Bush government was accused as an Iraq agent when she tried to go public with her story.
Lindauer wound up in a military prison where she watched as government officials deny having any idea that the 9/11 attacks were imminent. Lindauer had evidence to the contrary.