Last Thursday marked the 16th consecutive year that the U.S. government has consciously violated every American’s Fourth Amendment right to privacy. The U.S. Patriot Act was passed into law on October 26, 2001 in response to the 9/11 terror attacks. The Patriot Act was implemented in order to protect the homeland, but as is the case with most legislation, the act brought with it several unintended consequences.
In an effort to increase security, the U.S. government greatly increased the surveillance state — directly violating our Fourth Amendment right to privacy. Let me be clear: the Constitution provides us with more protection and safety than the surveillance state ever will .
In fact, the FBI admits that since it’s implementation in 2001, the Patriot Act and the bulk collection of data have not done anything to deter future terrorist attacks. While protecting the homeland is the federal government’s primary responsibility, it can be done without violating our Constitutional rights.
Thanks to the revelations made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, we learned that the federal government was spying on private citizens by targeting the digital footprint of American citizens — everything from our laptops, to our search history, emails, text messages, social media account, and a plethora of other private pieces of information.
The NSA has spiraled into "Big Brother" and the infringement has gotten so out of control that the original author of the Patriot Act, Rep. Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerProtecting the fundamental right of all Americans to have access to the voting booth Republicans compare Ron Johnson to Joe McCarthy: NYT GOP puts pressure on Pelosi over Swalwell MORE (R-Wis.), has introduced legislation that would curtail the domestic surveillance powers it gives to intelligence agencies.
Earlier this week, a bipartisan coalition led by U.S. Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWant a clean energy future? Look to the tax code Democrats brace for toughest stretch yet with Biden agenda Lawmakers lay out arguments for boosting clean energy through infrastructure MORE (D-Ore.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken Rand Paul: 'Hatred for Trump' blocking research into ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment Masks and vaccines: What price freedom? MORE (R-Ky.) introduced the USA Rights Act to reform the secretive — and warrantless — collection of American’s data. The bill calls for an end to warrantless, backdoor searches of Americans' calls, emails, texts and other communications that are routinely swept up under a program designed to spy on foreign targets. According to the legislation, “[this] sweeping authority has been clouded in secrecy, in part because the government refuses to answer essential questions about how it impacts Americans, including who can be targeted and how many American communications the government collects.”
As millennials, we are most affected by this appalling infringement on our rights and we should applaud those in Congress who are taking a stand. We are a digital generation and we have dependence on technology — be it social media, email, or texting. Because of this, we are the generation with the least amount of privacy. Our conversations and whereabouts can be strategically monitored every second of every day by an overreaching government. At Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), we are taking a stand.
This month, YAL chapters are hosting events on over 600 campuses nation-wide to bring attention to this infringement. YAL members will be dressed up as government officials and handing out fake "Top secret warrants” that alert students about being monitored by the government.
Through YAL's "Restore the Fourth" campaign, we will educate thousands of college students on the dangers of allowing our government to track our every movement without a warrant and create nation wide support for the right to privacy.
We must continue to remember and cherish what Franklin taught us, “those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
It's time to end big government spying on American citizens. It's time to "Restore the 4th."
Cliff Maloney Jr. is the President of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), a non-profit, youth organization based in Arlington, VA that boasts over 900 college chapters across the United States. YAL’s mission is to identify, educate, train, and mobilize youth activists committed to winning on principle. Learn more about YAL at www.yaliberty.org.