Double-Speak , the Patriot Act and Anthrax I | Deep Dives 17
Doublespeak is the language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable.
It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning. In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. Doublespeak is most closely associated with political language.
In the novel 1984, the government of Big Brother uses "Double-Speak" and "Double-Think" to condition and control their citizenry. While the novel illustrates the overt mechanisms of control, elements of doublespeak are present in our everyday lives. For instance, political correctness is a form of doublespeak spread widely throughout political, social and cultural discourse. Subtle word combinations penetrate and, over-time, become embedded in the public's vernacular over the span of decades. One of the most obvious examples of double-speak is found in the renaming of the Ministry of War to the now commonly used term - Department of Defense.
War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength
US Laws Employing Double-Speak
In lock step with the normalization of political correctness in the public sphere, legislation introduced at the various levels of government are emblematic of this form of social conditioning. It's plain to see that the names associated new proposed laws bear little or no relation to their names. Plenty of examples exist, but let's examine a few of our all time favorites.
The Patriot Act (2001)
- Sweeping surveillance powers, infringing on the 4th Amendment
USA Freedom Act (2015)
- Renew key provisions of Patriot Act
Free Trade - NAFTA (1994)
- Massive job loses & slow death of manufacturing
No Child Left Behind (2002)
- Standardization of education
Health Forest Restoration Act (2003)
- Grant greater access to forests and government land to corporations, limit public involvement and environmental protection
Citizens United (2010)
- Unlimited money in politics
Stop Online Piracy Act (2011)
- Proposed law to severely limit internet freedoms
For the People Act (2019)
- Political campaign financing reform to limit people's access and voting rights
CARES Act (2020)
- Wall Street bailout 2.0
The type of language used in introducing new legislation to the public is meant to hide the nefarious nature of the proposed laws.
There's nothing patriotic about the Patriot Act but the very opposite. American's civil liberties are infringed upon through the "USA Freedom Act", thus limiting freedom. There are no 'citizens' represented by Citizens United, on the contrary, the vast majority of citizens are united against grotesque sums political financing now granted to corporations and wealthy individual donors.
As we approach 20 years of the Patriot Act, it may be useful to take a step back and see how these temporary emergency powers have been entrenched in US law and only serves to inhibit free society.
Biden and the Omnibus Crime Bill
In 1995, Joe Biden sponsored the Ominbus CounterTerrorism Crime Bill that was to be a precursor to the Patriot Act that would follow less than a decade later. It's important to recognize that the bill was introduced in reaction to the Oklahoma City bombing and lawmakers attempted to take advantage of the moment to pass laws that had been previously rejected numerous times by Congress in the past. Ultimately, the bill failed to to get the needed support required to make it law but it would reappear in the wake of 9/11.
Essentially, the Ominbus Crime Bill aimed at providing US law enforcement with broad and vast new powers. More specifically, provisions included in the proposed law included secret evidence to be allowed in prosecutions, expanded wiretapping by government agencies and the establishment of terrorism as a federal crime that would allow the use of US military operations in domestic law enforcement activities.
A notable takeaway from @crobettreport's dissection of the coming Police State is that it will not simply arrive one day through boots-on-the-ground militarized police, rather the appearance of the Police State is incremental and exists already in fragmented pieces.
Biden the Patriot
Over the years, former US Vice President and former US senator Joe Biden has repeatedly gone out of his way to take credit for the creation of the Patriot Act. On numerous occasions Biden has claimed that he was the original author of the Patriot Act under another name - The 1995 Omnibus Crime Bill.
"I drafted a terrorism bill after the Oklahoma City bombing"
Civil libertarians were opposed to it... Right after 1994, and you can ask the attorney general this, because I got a call when he introduced the Patriot Act. He said, 'Joe, I'm introducing the act basically as you wrote it in 1994.'
"That has nothing to do with you all, but just to set the record straight. Almost the same thing that got passed, the Patriot Act, was introduced by me in 1994, and it was the right-wing that defeated it. You guys tried to help get it passed, including the wiretap changes and the rest."
The contents of the Omnibus Crime Bill are strikingly similar to the Patriot Act and focus mainly on increasing the powers of US law enforcement inside and outside of the United States to engage counterterrorism actions and to punish any participants in terrorist activities. However, these types of laws come at a high cost severely limiting civil liberties and laying the ground work for tighter restrictions and the emergence of a Police State.
The Patriot Act - HR 3162
Officially, the Patriot Act was signed into law on October 26 2001, just days after being introduced. The bill was rushed through allowing a very small window of time for members of Congress to find out what was included in the Act. The Senate version of the Patriot Act was also rushed to the floor for a vote without debate.
The Patriot Act increases the governments surveillance powers in four areas:
- Records searches. It expands the government's ability to look at records on an individual's activity being held by a third parties.
- Secret searches. It expands the government's ability to search private property without notice to the owner.
- Intelligence searches. It expands a narrow exception to the Fourth Amendment that had been created for the collection of foreign intelligence information.
- "Trap and trace" searches. It expands another Fourth Amendment exception for spying that collects "addressing" information about the origin and destination of communications, as opposed to the content.
According to the ACLU, many of the laws put into effect by the signing of the Patriot Act have nothing to do with terrorism at all.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows the FBI complete access to third-party information and force them to hand over records of their clients and customers. This provision encompasses doctors, libraries, bookstores, universities and Internet service providers. Moreover, Section 215 allows the collection of telephone records and meta-data associated with telephone records to be collected en masse by the NSA.
At its core, the Patriot Act grants the government unprecedented and unchecked power across the board.
The result is unchecked government power to rifle through individuals' financial records, medical histories, Internet usage, bookstore purchases, library usage, travel patterns, or any other activity that leaves a record.
|Before the Patriot Act||After the Patriot Act|
|When can it be used?||1.to gather foreign intel 2. investigate international terrorism||1. to gather foreign intel 2. protect against international terrorism|
|What FBI can demand?||"records"||"any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items)"|
|Who can they demand information about?||Only people who the FBI has evidence are an "agent of a foreign power"||Anyone|
|Who can they demand it from?||Only common carriers, public accommodation facilities, physical storage facilities, or vehicle rental facilities||Any entity|
Before any meaningful debate about the contents of the Act could begin, the Bush administration pressed US lawmakers to pass the bill as soon as possible. They warned those that voted against the Act or slowed the process may be blamed for any future Terrorist attacks.
In case blame for future terrorist attacks wasn't a powerful enough motivator, another act of terrorism quickly emerged in the weeks following 911. Attacks involving the deadly biological agent anthrax were directed at prominent voices of dissent in the Democratic party and at members of the media.
[See - Double-Speak, the Patriot Act and Anthrax II]
Well Past Expiration Date
It might come as a surprise to many Americans, but the powers embodied in the Patriot Act were not suppose to go on forever. Included in the Patriot Act was the Sunset Clause which set an expiration date on many of the most invasive provisions of the Act.
Sections of the US Patriot Act were originally set to sunset on December 31, 2005. Before it expired, both Houses of the USG amended and extended the expiring sections (H.R. 3199). Needing more time to for consideration the Patriot Act was extended twice right before expiration.
- December 31, 2005
- February 3rd, 2006
- March 10th, 2006
- May 26th, 2011
- June 2nd, 2015
- December 19th, 2019
- March 15th, 2020
Evidently, US lawmakers were unwilling to give-up their recently acquired surveillance powers and by not allowing portions of the act to expire, as originally planned, they set in motion the a practice that has continued on until the present day.
The Patriot Act is regularly reauthorized with bipartisan support time and time again.
Extending the Patriot Act (2011)
While the government's actual use of the Patriot Act largely remains secret, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are unhappy with the extension.
Before Thursday's Senate vote, Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said, "I want to deliver a warning this afternoon: When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry."
The extent of the secret use of the Patriot Act was eventually revealed by Booz-Allen Hamilton private security contractor turned whistleblower, Edward Snowden. In an explosive set of disclosures, Snowden revealed the extent of mass surveillance, the secret programs and methods employed by the NSA and intelligence community to "collect it all".
The revelations would drag the issue into the public domain and sparked a fierce debate about privacy at the expense of security. It would also put pressure on the Obama administration to roll back the invasive powers of the Patriot Act and the rubber-stamping by secret FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) proceedings kept hidden from the public.
Reauthorization of the Patriot Act as The USA Freedom Act (2015)
United States citizens enjoyed 1 entire day of actual freedom, freedom from the oppressive Patriot Act, when it expired for 24 hours on June 1st 2015 while congressional representatives engaged in a protracted debate about it's reauthorization.
Lovers of "freedom" rejoiced when the Patriot Act was replace by new legislation, aptly named,"The USA Freedom Act" that was voted into law on June 2nd, 2015.
Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ensuring Effective Discipline Over Monitoring Act of 2015.
The new legislation essentially extended key provisions of the Patriot Act, particularly a modified version of the controversial section 215.
- House’s approval: 338-88
- Senate approval: 67-32
Although touted by the Obama administration as an overhaul of the Patriot act with "sweeping reforms", the Freedom Act restores major portions of the surveillance state.
New limitations of Section 215 and the bulk collection of data were placed on government agencies including the NSA. Bulk collecting of data from US citizens will no longer be permitted under the law but the collection of data from targeted individuals, or those suspected of 'terrorist activities' (a broad term with no agreed upon definition), would continue to be permitted.
USA Freedom Act Sunset Clause - Extended (Dec. 19th, 2019)
Again, in late December 2019 the Sunset Clause baked into the USA Freedom Act was set to expire and once again Congress deferred the vote with a the last minute extension pushing a vote back to March 15th, 2020.
Extension of the Extension (March 16th, 2020)
The vote was once more deferred due to the ongoing Corona Virus crisis taking priority throughout America. On March 16th, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell attempted to quickly ram through a reauthorization of the USA Freedom Act but was blocked by members of the Senate who demanded further protections be placed on civil liberties. Another 77-day extension was granted for further consideration of the Act.
The Perpetual Patriot Act for Lasting Freedom
It's been nearly 20 years since the US government rammed through the Patriot Act.
Some might argue that the Patriot Act has been successful as there haven't been any major attacks on US soil since its creation.
But at what cost?
Despite laws projecting democratic virtues and principles they are nothing more than euphemistic doublespeak designed to accomplish the opposite. Our rights and freedoms to Habeus Corpus remain enfeebled, our rights to privacy vis-a-vis an increased mass surveillance of daily activities are anemic, the militarization of police marches forward, increased security screening at all airports and border crossings has become the norm, and the list goes on.
I for one, believe that much like how the wars of aggression in the Middle East waged by US imperialism have made the world a more dangerous place, the Patriot Act has similarly steered America towards greater peril and greater domestic oppression for all its inhabitants.
The instruments of the Police State control steadily creep forward, it's easy not to notice, but it's always there, cloaked in double-speak euphemisms of "freedom" and "patriot" terminology.
All that is needed to pass another Patriot Act is another crisis that puts enough fear into the population that they happily give up their freedoms for security.
Mass surveillance has been revealed but has also been largely accepted by many in society as a necessary trade-off and simply as a fact of life in our increasingly dystopic times.
The oft expressed -
- "I have nothing to hide! Let them read my emails and personal data."
Soon, this will be replaced with -
- "There's nowhere to hide" from authority.
In part 2, we'll examine the Anthrax attacks of 2001. A pivotal event in the story of 9-11 ushering in the Patriot Act which has largely been forgotten and has almost completely faded into obscurity.