The U.S. Senate voted today not to extend the Patriot Act beyond the end of the year, when its sunset provisions kick in.
The act has been controversial since its inception soon after 9/11. Its provisions were designed to give law enforcement and investigative agencies more power to gather information on Americans suspected of having terrorist ties. Opponents have protested that the law was too intrusive and violated Americans’ right to privacy.
For a while I believed, with reservations, that the law was probably necessary to protect us from the enemy within our borders. However, it has become increasingly clear that when the law violates anyone’s rights, it violates us all. Compromising our freedoms in any way pushes us that much closer to being like the enemy.
I find in the situation some parallels with the (now former) U.S. position on torture. And I feel the same about both. We must not yield the moral high ground in our efforts to fight terrorism, or the terrorists will have succeeded in their goal of bringing down our way of life. They won’t need to attack us if we destroy ourselves from within.