How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Patriot Act

Apparently, there are millions and millions of people in this country who have just now come to the sudden and cosmic realization that the United States has been allowing intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on them for over 10 years. People seem to be upset that the NSA, or more appropriately the privately-owned entities they hire to “data-mine” just about any kind of information we have or produce, has a Gold Card Pass to peer into anything of ours that they want to. Personal, intimate things like, oh, e-mails, Facebook posts, websites you looked at, text messages you sent, phone calls you made, phone calls people made to you, and just about anything else you can think of that isn’t said face-to-face (provided someone isn’t pointing a listening device at you recording everything you say while hiding in a bush)  has been the subject of officially sanctioned, people-approved snooping since the year 2003.

Here in God’s America, we call it “The Patriot Act.”

This doesn’t come as a shock to me. Unfortunately, most people in this country aren’t aware of what’s going on around them whatsoever, even if it’s been going on for a long, long time. Everyone cheered and supported it when the “Golden Tenor,” United States Attorney General John Ashcroft, came up with it and pushed it through Congress. Even though people wholeheartedly supported it when it happened, somehow they must have misplaced that memory, even though they voted for people who voted to keep allowing it to happen, time and time again.

American citizens were so enamored of this terrorist-fighting freedom-preserving “Act” that no one thought: “Look, I want to find terrorists in our midst as much as the next guy, but we really should look at this thing a little closer, now that we’re not filled with a raging blood-lust to the point that we can’t think straight. We might want to study this in detail a little bit more. It might be worth the time now to make sure it’s geared towards the detection and apprehension of terrorists in our midst, and doesn’t instead legally allow Draconian powers to folks that allow them to look into the little nooks, crannies, and corners of our very lives. Lives that we foolishly believe to be personal, secure, and safe from scrutiny from anyone with a Top Secret security clearance and some spare time on their hands. Maybe we should identify the what and the who of how this thing is going to work, because it’s kind of messing with the Fourth Amendment and probably a few others. Everyone wants to catch terrorists, but maybe we should make sure people aren’t getting into areas of our personal business that probably aren’t necessarily where you’d stand the best chance of uncovering actual terrorist plots that form a threat to us at all.”

If anyone had said something like that, most people back then would have said, “What are you, some kind of terrorist? You must have something to hide!”

No, we didn’t have the time to deal with it then, besides, we knew what we were doing, right?

It’s funny what we pay attention to. We know when the next episode of The Voice will be on television. If McDonald’s starts serving McRib Sandwiches on the menu, the news spreads like wildfire. If you stop anyone on the street who looks under 60, they’ll be able to tell you when the next iPhone is scheduled to be released. Anyone who looks under 25 will most likely be able to name all of the Kardashians without having to think about it, as well as who they’re married to or having sex with at the moment, and who they used to be married to or had sex with in the past. To say we don’t know what’s going on around us, inferring to a degree that we tend to be blinded by our own immediate personal self-interests and meaningless garbage that pales in comparison to the fact that everyday every facet of our lives can be investigated for any reason because we said it could by anyone with the proper paperwork would be grossly unfair.

The media certainly didn’t help.  Instead of pointing out that it’s been this way since 2003, and I’m talking everyone here, CNN, MSNBC, and even ‘ol FOX News, chose instead to have their anchors sit in front of mirrors and practice their shocked, horrified, “My God I Can’t Believe This is Happening!” looks, so they could use them whenever they talked about it on TV. Not once did I hear anyone from any network say, “Uh…like…this has been going for some time folks. It’s never been a secret, you could have read about it in detail anytime you wanted to, and I know this sounds crazy, but you’ve actually supported it from the get-go.” Not one. No, instead they’ve been trying to twist it into a sudden burst of “You heard it here first folks!,” and frame it as some sort of 1984-like behavior that was only discovered the day before yesterday. Why? Because it’s a lot sexier, does wonders for Arbitrage ratings, and sells advertising spots far more and for more than simply explaining the truth about the process. Or that fact that it’s been going on for years and years.

When the president and Gentleman John Ashcroft, the U.S.A.G. at the time, championed the passage of the Patriot Act in 2003, they knew all about its little nuances, and supported it wholeheartedly. They supported it because since it said, “Patriot Act,” had a neat new “Department of Homeland Security” graphic at the top, and it sounded all Patriotic and stuff. Some of the American People and their congressional representatives supported it because it was going to be used to go after unpatriotic folks like terrorists and bad guys. Since everyone knew that they weren’t a terrorist or a bad guy, it certainly didn’t have anything to do with them, so what the hell, right? Let’s go get’em! Yay Patriot Act!

There weren’t many Americans who didn’t wholeheartedly support the Patriot Act. Unfortunately, a lot of Americans are just now realizing what they signed up for. Doh! They just knew that a bunch of scumbag terrorists had murdered a whole bunch of us in our house, and we were going to make damn sure we did everything to keep it from happening again.

I supported it. As I learned more about it in the years to come though, I realized that it also qualifies in most cases to be used for criminal prosecution of almost anything. The Patriot Act, massaged the right way, is really carte blanche for any officer of the law, municipal, state, or federal, to use the abilities of information gathering present in the Act to build cases on non-terrorist crimes.

More people who didn’t study it got upset that there were intelligentsia who had the ability, by law, to comb through our dirty laundry and hold up our brown-stained skivvies to the light anytime they wanted to. I was also disturbed to find out that 3/4 of a million civilians, as a result of the passage of the Patriot Act, were handed out Top Secret clearance ratings like Dunkin’ Donuts punch-cards on behalf of the federal government and the private security firms that they work for. Hey look, it’s Eddie Snowden!

Our government, beginning in 2003, pays private intelligence contractors, thousands of them, piles of cash that would make Daddy Warbucks look like a penniless pauper. These civilians with a punch card for free donuts issued by our government are allowed to look at our skivvies anytime they want to.

I wonder what they talk about when the get together with their friends at the club after work…

I became livid when I found out that because there was no real governing authority to guide and direct these private security companies for profit that popped up like mushrooms after a Missouri spring rain, just sort of do what whatever it is that they want to do as far as what to mine, who they want to mine, or how they go about mining it.

The real problem is that they all tend to spend most of their time going over the same data, simultaneously. Since they aren’t communicating with each other or being told to do so, all of the agencies are going through the exact same types of data. That means that each one is trying to go through e-mails, texts, phone calls, tweets, hoots, and hollers of every type, all at the same time.

Since everyone’s going through the same unending piles of varied data types that expand with each new social media creation, someone could plan to blow up something using real names, addresses, phone numbers, or even post it in Facebook (with its own page!), and the Department of Homeland Security would probably find out about in March of 2016.

It’s like realizing your car needs the oil changed, and dropping it off at the garage. After the garage changes the oil though, it is taken to a different garage immediately, where they…change the oil again. After they’re done changing it, it’s taken to another garage, just like the other two, where they change the oil at that facility as well. If you can imagine that say, a thousand different garages all changing your car’s oil at the same time, then you’d have a pretty good grasp of how all this “mined data” is handled. They only thing is that you’d need to have another slew of dimensions to change oil in, because they’d also be changing the same oil over and over again. While these privately-run security contractor’s “agents” are looking at all your e-mails from the day before (where’d those donuts go?), so is the one over there, and the one down the street from it, “times” a couple thousand. And getting paid for it. Well paid for it.

Since they’re all duplicating their efforts, all of them working furiously on the exact same oil change, no one is looking at your coolant levels, checking the brake lines and pads, or thinking about what has occurred since the idea of an oil change became the object of such scrutiny, which by now, was quite a while ago. Your CV joints could be ready to crumble to dust at the first turn you take over 20 mph, but you wouldn’t know it until it’s too late. The mechanics were too busy changing the same oil to notice.

It’s like when the New York Times used to send out copies of their paper from a printer in New York City instead of contracting the printing out to local printers. It took days and days to reach a subscriber in say, some place in the heartland. There used to be an old saying: “If the world ended on Monday, I wouldn’t find out about it until Thursday.”

Applied to the concept of combing through communications used by Americans on a daily basis to try and ferret out terrorists, since the opportunistic contractors are too stupid and unwilling to coordinate themselves, and the government is unable to delegate responsibilities out to the various commercial opportunists so they don’t duplicate their work so we can at least hope we’re staying on top of the snooping going on in something approaching a “real time” concept, the worst part about all of this crap is that by the time everyone gets through duplicating one thing before moving on to duplicate another, an actual real, live, minty-fresh terrorist plot could be hatched, discussed freely, and then carried out, causing the massive loss of American life that the act was brought about to try and avoid in the first place.

We’d get to the bottom of it and figure out who did it of course, it’s just that it would be March of 2016.

If you’re one of those folks that are spending your time throwing up your hands in horror and decrying the powers of the Patriot Act you yourself approved, the law you’ve continued to support even though you have no idea what in the hell it really entails, shame on you.

If you don’t like the idea of some overpaid, nose-picking 23 year-old with the security clearance of a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff might reading your meaningless and insignificant text messages announcing every place you go, or the fact that you “Like” some greasy cheeseburger a mega-corporation thrusts through the window of your car (without a napkin or anything you actually ordered on it), instead of worrying about how the entire system is nothing but a complete failure because it is so far behind it wouldn’t know that a terrorist plot that had been cooking for a month of Sundays while costing the government (that means you) more money than God…well…you have nothing to worry about.

There’s no way in hell you could be mistaken for a terrorist.  No one could ever mistake you for anything other than what you are…a red-blooded, flag-waving American.

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