Sept. 11, 2001 is a day that has already went down in history, but not only as the day thousands of Americans died or everyone’s favorite excuse for two wars. For many Americans, it will also be the day that the United States government launched war on its own citizens. This isn’t a war with guns and bombs; it isn’t that obvious, but it’s just as dangerous. This war uses secret documents, recordings, and records all in the name of the infamous, “War on Terror.”
“USA Today” revealed that three phone companies have been supplying phone records to the National Security Agency since 9/11. The NSA supposedly used this information to build a database to determine call patterns and find terrorists. Have friends or family in the Middle East? Maybe in North Korea?
Don’t be surprised to find the NSA beating down your door. As a side note, when a few states tried to investigate this, the Justice Department sued them.
If you are a college student, you are under the microscope that much more. The Department of Defense has admitted to monitoring campus protests. Visions of Vietnam? But they didn’t stop there; they also monitored e-mails between students planning protests against the Iraq War, military recruitment on campus, and also the military’s policy on homosexuals, “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Speaking of military recruitment, those calls you get from Sergeant What’s-his-name asking you to join the Marines? They keep records of college students, high school students, and those under 17. On top of this, the Department of Education now works for the FBI, supplying information on students who have applied for financial aid over the past five years.
These all add up to the federal government invading the privacy of every person they are keeping records of. They have no right to know whom we speak to on the phone, or what we peacefully protest.
The Department of Education has no right to hand over our private records to the FBI, and the military has no right to keep our names on file. They already come to our schools and recruit whenever they want to, they don’t need our personal information.
Unfortunately, this all goes well beyond an invasion of privacy, into a violation of our set-in-stone constitutional rights. No, the government doesn’t blatantly stop people from speaking; rather they are creating an environment where people question these rights. If a handful of different government agencies are watching what you protest against, who you call, what you read, and on and on, it leads to self-censorship. Not to mention the thin line the Patriot Act walks when it comes to Fourth Amendment rights against warrantless searches.
Don’t fear though, it is all in the name of National Security. All this information gathering on law-abiding citizens is just so they can find terrorists. ‘Don’t ever forget September 11,’ they say; they are only trying to prevent it from happening again.
Sept. 11 is the battle cry they use to get people to go along with all of this; it is what they invoke to scare people into thinking these violations are a good idea. It is the guilt trip they take you on when you try and question these actions.
Since the Constitution was written, our country has habitually betrayed its own promises, from the Alien and Sedition Acts of the late 1790s to the Red Scare in the 1950s, and everything in between. Every time those in power get scared, they turn against their own citizens, and every time it has been a shameful part of our history.
Now instead of using the fear of a nuclear holocaust, it turned instead to fear over a repeat of 9/11. Sept. 11 was a national tragedy; it should be remembered and mourned, not used as a tool to get the citizenry to go along with bad government policy.
Ashley Helaudais can be reached at