Skip to main content.

Back to: >> Terrorism

Patriot Act: Time To Amend It

We think it may be time. For example, the act in practice gives the President powers Congress believed were necessary to resolve present conflicts. That feature gained support from the 9/11 attacks that left 2977 dead (including 372 foreign nationals) plus 19 high-jackers who hijacked four commercial airliners and crashed two of them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and crashed a third one into the Pentagon. A fourth airliner crashed into a Pennsylvania cornfield thanks to courageous passengers who stormed the cockpit. Several warning signs and memos were not put together and interpreted in real time for action. Existing stove-pipe agencies in US government together with an authoritarian Commander in Chief, whose team ignored warnings from the previous administration, prevented information known in some governmental quarters from being recognized as a pattern and being acted upon. After 9/11, the fear generated was so great that the Patriot Act did not include much in the way of limits on guarding individual freedoms.

But how many congress people try to look forward instead covering their rear ends? If that last sounds sarcastic so be it. On the other hand, what could be simpler than starting from perspectives common to all Americans. The focal and most basic two perspectives are: safety from injury or death versus our basic freedoms, both 1) collectively and 2) individually.

Futuristic External Perspective: What can blow America to smithereens collectively? What are the fixes?
  • Bolides from outer space. This danger hardly needs legislation. If the warning is early enough, a bolide could be diverted.
  • Nuclear armageddon. Legislation is the starting place, but since when is Congress willing to put life on earth ahead of its empire designs? See Nuclear Winter for some probabilities and for broader issues.

Historic External Perspective: Individual safety involves both external and internal aspects. Terroristic attacks on US consulates and diplomatic missions since WWII. Benghazi was neither the first, nor the most serious nor the most deadly. Nor were such attacks limited to the US. A long list of European, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries, 45 in all, also suffered terrorist attack on their diplomatic missions. Of these, 13 suffered three or more attacks. See: Wikipedia.
    Since WWII, the history is:
  • Libreville-Gabon 1964;
  • Saigon-South Vietnam 1965 (22 die);
  • Saigon-South Vietnam 1968 (5 die);
  • Phnom Penh-Cambodia 1971;
  • Tehran-Iran 1979;
  • Islamabad-Pakistan 1979 (9 die);
  • Tripoli-Libya; Beitut-Lebanon 1983 (64 die);
  • Kuwait City Kuwait 1983 (6 die);
  • Jakarta-Indonesia 1986;
  • Rome-Italy 1987;
  • Tel Aviv-Israel 1990;
  • Nairobi-Kenya 1998 (212 die);
  • Dar es Salam-Tanzania 1998 (11 die);
  • Beijing-China 1999;
  • Karachi-Pakistan 2002 (12 die);
  • Tashkent-Uzbekistan 2004 (2 die);
  • Jeddah-Saudi Arabia 2004;
  • Damascus-Syria 2006 (4 die);
  • Athens-Greece 2007,
  • Vienna-Austria 2007;
  • Belgrade-Serbia 2008 (1 dies);
  • Istanbul-Turkey 2008 (6 die);
  • San’a-Yemen 2008 (19 die);
  • Damascus-Syria 2011;
  • Kabul-Afghanistan 2011;
  • Sarajevo-Bosnia and Herzegovina 2011;
  • Cairo-Egypt 2012;
  • Benghazi-Libya 2012 (4 die, including US ambassador resulted from twin attacks);
  • San’a-Yemen 2012;
  • Ankara-Turkey 2013 (2 die).
  • Boston Marathon: Boston 2013, (three die in attack, a fourth dies during the flight of the terrorists. One terrorist died in flight, the other was quickly found by new search technology.)
  • Bengazi: Four fatalities, including the US ambassador, resulted from the twin attacks on separate compounds.

Of the 132 attacks, 24.4% were on Americans. Of the 723 deaths 46.1% were American.

It is apparent that new approaches involving new technologies and policies will be needed to reduce terrorism to levels that can be handled by local police as it was in Boston. Bringing terrorism to bay at home as well as where they live may be a long haul as long as social/political policy and technology fail to complement one another—the present situation.

On the political scene, Congress is polarized on most issues except perhaps on immigration where the Latino vote amounts to a swing vote in national elections and creates bedfellows out of necessity. On terrorism, the parties are also divided, one being less hawkish than the other. On top of all this one party is intransigent, electoral politics aside, in opposing the other. Sadly, the incumbent party is ignoring the lesson of California, where a state was reduced to issuing vouchers to its employees but is now showing a budget surplus. Jerry Brown, a has-been ex-governor, learned the wisdom of sound management as a means to turn around a promised land.

Historic Internal Perspective: This danger arises when our internal tendencies, Dominance / Obedience / Cooperation / Altruism / Parenting, clash in their extremes. Our collective psyches merely reflect our individual psyches as the scientific studies of Adorno, Milgram and Zimbardo show most vividly. Standing alone, each of these is a threat to our individual self-esteems. Having high caliber brains, we save ourselves from such a perceived threat that as individuals we can indeed behave violently. It is so much easier just to invoke the most common of hang ups—denial. In time we simply erase the possibility from our conscience, but millennia of history can be explained no other way. A century ago, Freud captured the general idea even though his psychoanalytic theory came to disrepute. His Id, is simply our hedonistic child in each of us who insists on his/her way—Dominance. Freud’s Superego is our conscience, or internal locus of control, that is most strongly present in parenting. His ego, our logical selves, knows when to obey, cooperate or be in order to survive. Consider the following:

  • WWII Germans followed Hitler blindly even after he lost an entire army at Stalingrad in the East and could not stop a cross-channel invasion from England. Why? See Adorno and his rendition of the Authoritarian personality, that Altemeyer later simplified.
  • Ordinary American will apply electric shocks up 400 volts in response to an “authority” in a white coat. This result too, has been verified by others and can now be regarded as established science.
  • College boys can be trained in about a day to adopt the personality of a tyrannical prison guard or the guard’s counterpart, a victimized prisoner. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, later affirmed Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment in spades. The behaviors of his “guards” foretold in astonishing detail what the real guards did in Iraq!
What greater proof would anyone need, that we are violent by nature? Well, as silly as that question seems, a huge number of otherwise very good folks simply cannot believe it. The very idea is buried so deeply in their (our) subconscious that they (we) do not recognize the fear they (we) feel, much less why they (we) harbor such fear, and much less even than that, how that fear can be expunged. Accepting negative facts about one’s self, if one has a conscience, would be the guilt trip to end all guilt trips. In all logic it should not be that way. For sure we are each born with a basic temperament. But our adult personalities—the behavior we show others—is the work of others. This subtle fact says our violent behavior can be dampened over generations to come. Politics in a capsule.
  • Both parties want to continue torture as a policy in this war for human minds, while keeping Guantanamo open, even if relatively empty, local opinion be damned.
  • Both parties support continuing continued remote assassination, local opinion be damned.
  • Both parties strongly support strengthening the American Empire, opinions of others be damned.

Technology is a distinctly human endeavor and so far in history it seems to have no bounds in its potential for violence. What is to stop a drone from carrying a nuclear warhead? Who could stop them? OK, Congress could. But like the Fourth Amendment, Congressional action is not international for all of humanity, this is the crux! And so it is for us as well.

As quoted famously by Kris Rosenberg
“We are not violent because we have guns,
we have guns because we are violent.”

Back to the Patriot Act.

Technology has the effect of enhancing the level of violence that is possible. When practiced by deniers on deniers, bad things happen that only scale toward worse if left to the free reins of psychopaths, whether heads of family or heads of state marshalling the obedience of others. Beyond doubt, this problem is beyond any quick Band Aid. It is a job for the generations. Further, since the jihadis share our genome, they share our predilection for violence.

So what can we do in the here and now?
  • Most of all, we can address our own hang-ups, taking the time necessary to sort out: why they don’t fit well in our age, how we can damp them down by understanding why they existed in the first place, and then how we can regain the self confidence it takes to normalize our psyches.
  • As individuals we can review, revise, correct and amend the above as soon as answers come along.
  • We can teach our children about these things before they leave the nest.
  • We can encourage our children study enough of the sciences to understand how and why technology works.
  • Following these prescription we might even reduce the road fatalities that presently hover over 30,000 per year. Well over a quarter of a million folks have died on the roads since 9/11. A like number has died by guns in just one year. Yet our psyches accept the deaths of a half million people without even a twitch of guilt. So why do we get more upset over several hundred deaths over seven decades than we do over a half million in one decade? This too involves a state of mind that must be figured out before we can be emotionally free and immune to terror.
  • Finally we can share these views with others all over the world.


No comments yet

To be able to post comments, please register on the site.