Back in 2001, most of us understood that when the World Trade Center fell, our rights to unfettered privacy fell with it. We knew that, in order to prevent future 9/11s, the government would have to amass huge amounts of phone records and email data. We’d expect our government to learn to read the difference between potential terror threats and imminent terror threats, and we understood that they’d be combing through everybody’s business, in order to keep us safe. Today, no one would be happy if the Boston bombers were still at large, kept free because the president was afraid to snoop, afraid to wiretap, afraid to wade through the personal communications of ordinary citizens. No, we simply wanted the Boston bombers caught.
The post-9/11 snooping began under President Bush, and back then, Republicans were quick to claim that such infringements were a small price to pay for safety against terrorism. Most of us learned to assume that everything we do on the Internet is probably viewable by one security agency or another and figured that in an age where a faceless, stateless enemy can strike, kill thousands, disappear and strike again, we might as well get used to a bit of Big Brother treatment.
But now, we have a different president, a president Republican lawmakers have vowed to undermine at every turn, vowed to thwart whenever possible, even if what he does is exactly what they would do. Hence, we get Fox News’ shrill Freedom Cry: “How dare the president snoop!”
But we’re not dumb enough to listen to Fox News, are we?