Nearly everyone knows that eleven years ago today terrorists hijacked four airplanes. Two of the planes flew into the World Trade Center Towers, one crashed into the Pentagon and another crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania. Those left dead numbered in the thousands, and many more were left with physical and emotional wounds, some of which still haven’t fully healed.
Many people also know that in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush – not yet a full year on the job – pushed through Congress the infamous USA PATRIOT Act, a bill purporting to make our country safer. Congress voted on the thousands-of-pages-long bill after having only a few hours to read it, and the result was that, while our country may be safe, indeed its citizens and visitors were not. Because of the PATRIOT Act, we can be legally molested for choosing to fly on an airplane, government agents can demand information about from service providers without a warrant or even our knowledge, our banks are now required spy on us, we can be taken into custody as military combatants and never given a civilian trial, and – based solely on the President’s whim – we can even be simply blown up by a drone. Oh yeah, and the size and cost of government has grown exponentially to implement and oversee all these “protections.”
I won’t go so far as to say everything in the PATRIOT Act was entirely bad for everyone. But on the whole, it was a very poor law, and not just in retrospect. A few congressional voices voted against it, and a few others outside Congress tried to make people aware of the liberties the PATRIOT Act either infringed or outright destroyed. Most importantly, four years ago, the Democratic Party made a point of pointing out how badly Americans (and foreigners) have been treated because of post-9/11 “security” laws such as the PATRIOT Act. The platform that President Obama ran on included promises to rescind some of those security provisions and restore the civil liberties that the Constitution supposedly protects.
But that was four years ago. Not only has Obama not lived up to his campaign promises (does anyone ever expect any politician to do so anymore?) – he has actively made things worse with regard to civil liberties. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 included provisions that allows Americans to be indefinitely detained under military courts without any recourse; the 2013 version of the bill contains similar language. Even worse, President Obama has acknowledged that he can, on his own decision as the president, kill American citizens. In other words, he is – like the Judge Dredd movie reboot hanging imminently over our heads – Judge, Jury and Executioner all wrapped up in shiny metal suit.
The current Democratic Party platform makes no mention of any of the things that just four years ago seemed so incredibly important. (Mother Jones has detailed writeup of the changes to the Democratic Party Platform from 2008.) However, in a not-at-all dubious floor vote, they did decided to restore a couple things they apparently left out of the platform unintentionally: A mention of God and a statement about Jerusalem being the capital of Israel. Because those are the things that are really important to a party that generally believes in the separation of church and state. Things like not being killed by the president are much, much less critical.
Fewer civil liberties; more God and Israel. Sound like any other party you know?