On October 26, 2001 George W. Bush signed into law the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, also called the Patriot Act. The legislation (H.R. 3162) was introduced by Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner on Oct. 23, passed the House the next day, and passed the Senate on Oct. 25. There is no way any member of Congress could have read and understood the 132 page bill in the amount of time they were given from introduction to passage, but I digress.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that the NSA had been spying on the public. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked nearly 20,000 documents to journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has been parsing through and releasing that information. Already revealed is the fact that the NSA & GCHQ had spied on private individuals around the world, spied on diplomats, found ways to hack encrypted software, and violated their own lax rules nearly 3,000 times in a 12 month period.
In protest of this outrageous violation of privacy, a coalition of more than 100 public advocacy organizations and companies from across the political spectrum came together as “Stop Watching Us” to demand the U.S. Congress investigate the full extent of the NSA’s spying programs. In September, the group announced a rally in Washington, D.C. on the anniversary of the signing of the PATRIOT Act. Edward Snowden issued a statement of support for the rally, “In the last four months, we’ve learned a lot about our government.
We’ve learned that the U.S. intelligence community secretly built a system of pervasive surveillance. Today, no telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA. Today, no internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA’s hands. Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They’re wrong.
Now it’s time for the government to learn from us.”
One would think that people would be happy about a broad coalition coming together for a common goal. Unfortunately, some people aren’t happy about the libertarian involvement. Writing for Salon.com, Tom Watson wrote, “This is a vital cause, and I agree with it,” adding “Yet I cannot support this coalition or the rally.” Watson’s objection is with the participation of the Libertarian Party, saying, “their hardcore ideology stands in direct opposition to almost everything I believe in as a social democrat.”
It seems that Watson doesn’t want a coalition opposing the NSA, he wants people to agree with him on every issue. That’s fine, in a libertarian society without a central government, you’re still free to be a “social democrat”, you just don’t get to force that belief on others!