The endless extension of the surveillance state

We've witnessed our personal privacy dwindle over the past 15 years and thanks to Congress, it’s likely to continue well into the future.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a bill late Tuesday night to extend through 2020 a controversial surveillance authority under the Patriot Act.

The proposal under Section 215 of the Patriot Act essentially allows the National Security Agency or ‘NSA’ to continue telephone wiretapping and collecting personal data from anyone in the United States. That’s a lot of power for any agency, especially the NSA.

This bill highlights the need to continue withholding phone and internet search records for national security purposes. It’s co-sponsored by North Carolina Republican Sen.  Richard Burr, who ran his campaign against extended NSA surveillance.

Oh, it gets better. According to the Washington Post, McConnell and Burr invoked a Senate rule that enabled them to bypass the traditional committee vetting process and take the bill straight to the floor. Why rush?

September 11, 2001 changed our county’s approach to terrorism. We sacrificed personal freedoms for security. Some argue that we needed to sacrifice personal freedom in order to keep our country safe and free.

Likely 2016 presidential candidate and former Gov. of Florida Jeb Bush said on the Michael Medved radio show on Tuesday, "I would say the best part of [President] Obama’s administration would be his continuance of the protections of the homeland using, you know, the big metadata programs, the NSA being enhanced." "Even though [Obama] never defends it, even though he never openly admits it, there has been a continuation of a very important service, which is the first obligation I think of our national government is to keep us safe."

The surveillance state was extended and some approve of the new measures, but many have mixed emotions.

Microsoft creator, Bill Gates questioned, “Should surveillance be usable for petty crimes like jaywalking or minor drug possession? Or is there a higher threshold for certain information? Those aren't easy questions.”

These are some serious questions that need answering. Why isn’t the extended surveillance state a bigger 2016 campaign issue? I know it’s early, but haven’t we seen enough of this garbage?  I know that many Americans believe we should sacrifice some privacy for security, but then are we truly free?

Several whistle-blowers have shown us the NSA’s continued abused power, notably Edward Snowden a former system administrator for the CIA. I’m personally not a fan of Edward Snowden or his actions, but he’s proven that it’s too much power for one agency to control.

I’m not here to justify or praise what Snowden did. Snowden had a huge responsibility and broke the rules of the CIA. He was dishonest, but I wouldn't consider him a traitor. His information was alarming and that alone should prevent Republicans from passing another extension of the unpopular Patriot Act. The Democrats haven’t been right on many things, but this is something they could score a victory on by standing up for our individual rights.

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