Government Terrorism Fearmongering Just as PATRIOT Act Comes Up for Reauthorization: Coincidence?

I don't think so.


Daily News

Over the weekend, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson warned on ABC's Sunday television talk show that lone wolf terrorists inspired by the ISIS terrorist group could "strike at any moment." Similarly, U.S. military bases boosted their security level to "Force Protection Bravo." That level of seurity is defined as an "increased and predictable threat of terrorism." Johnson and the Pentagon pointed to the attack last week on a Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas by two homegrown terrorists as a justification for the increased warnings.

As it happens Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act which has been unconstitutionally interpreted as permitting the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect the metadata on essentially all of the telephone calls made by Americans expires on June 1. Last week, a federal appeals court ruled that that interpretation went way too far and that Congress did not intend for the NSA to have such sweeping surveillance powers. It is notable that pervasive surveillance apparently failed to detect the plans of the two Texas attackers.

Finally, the threat of terrorism by homegrown jihadis is minimal. As Mother Jones pointed out in 2013, there have been only 17 people killed by Islamic terrorists in the U.S. since the September 11, 2001 atrocities. The number of gun homicides in the U.S. averages over 200 per week. Terrorism, even on the scale of 9/11, does not pose an existential threat to our country. However, the growth of turnkey totalitarianism does.

Given the impending Section 215 expiration date, is it just a coincidence that national security state functionaries are ramping up terrorism warnings? I don't think so.

For more background, see my article, "The Internet Does Not Increase Terrorism."

NEXT: Lefties Are Too Good and Right to Talk to You and Me

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. If Section 215 is so awesome, why didn’t they catch the Garland duo?

    1. Too busy chasing down a couple of potential bombers from Chechnya in the Boston area!!!


    2. Or the Boston bombers, or anyone at all, except of course for the ones that the FBI entrap.

      1. “psssstt! Hey? You hate America? Right on brother sister, me too. Here’s a copy of the Anarchist Cookbook. I’ll check back in 6 months with some supplies. Viva Jihad!””

    3. Hey, they were *aware* of them! That has to count for *something*!

      1. Seeing as they are generally aware of everyone I am not so sure.

  2. I don’t think it is a good idea to get in a debate about the real threat of terrorism. We don’t know what it is and if there ever is another big attack, everyone who said it wasn’t a threat is going to be discredited.

    The argument that needs to be made is that the Patriot act doesn’t protect us from the threat, whatever it is. Civil Libertarians should not let these people off the hook by letting them claim this stuff makes us safer. It doesn’t make us safer. More importantly, if you concede that it does, you are never going to win the argument. People are risk adverse. If they think this stuff works and really prevents terrorist attacks, no amount of “but the terrorists are not really there” or “but we can’t give up our freedom to be safe” is ever going to convince people not to support these programs.

    The argument has to be these programs don’t work and violate our privacy and create all kinds of potential for abuse without any increase in safety in return.

    1. J: From the post: It is notable that pervasive surveillance apparently failed to detect the plans of the two Texas attackers.

      1. It was the fault of that awful radical woman who thinks people can just go around drawing whatever they want.

        Don’t you know that in Dogdick, GA, that if anyone draws Jesus, our very own Buttplug will be hunted down in the streets and slain by the Christian terrorists?

        1. Pamela Geller is Adam Lanza with a vagina.

        2. I happened to see part of last week’s Saturday Night Live. They handled the “Don’t Draw Mohammed” problem kind of cleverly. However, I image they’ll be attacked either for “Portraying The Prophet” or for mocking the “Don’t Draw Him” dogma.

        3. …in Dogdick, GA, that if anyone draws Jesus, our very own Buttplug will be hunted down in the streets and slain…

          *makes travel plans to visit Dogdick, GA, takes along art supplies to draw picture of Jesus*

          1. If your mission succeeds, then you should be awarded the libertarian medal of…. oh wait, we don’t have any medals. Ok, you get a ht.

            1. And an expired coupon for a free deep-dish pizza, and complimentary jar of artisanal mayonnaise…

              1. How about a complementary deep dish pizza and an expired jar of artisan mayo?

                1. What, we outta poutine already?

    2. Nearly fourteen years of history with the PATRIOT Act and the numerous usurpations of individual liberty since then demonstrate one thing: terrorism works. Terrorism can be highly effective in advancing the frontiers of the authoritarian state as well as advancing the ends of those who wish to sow terror. Bin Laden’s manifesto alleged that the US claim to “freedom and democracy” is a monstrous hypocrisy. The US government’s response to his terrorism demonstrates his allegation to be largely true. It seems akin to the bootlegger-Baptist coalition in the wars on alcohol and drugs, but on a far grander and more comprehensive scale. Neither bootleggers nor terrorists form literal coalitions with their adversaries, but the confluence of interests causes the adversarial parties in both cases to take action that is mutually beneficial to their own ends and harmful to a genuinely free society.

      1. “Bin Laden’s manifesto alleged that the US claim to “freedom and democracy” is a monstrous hypocrisy.”

        It’s amazing how Americans generally completely discount everything OBL has said because he was a “terrorist”. His arguments had gems of truth in them which resonated with hundreds of millions of people; by discounting even the possibility that anything he said contained ANY truth, it was impossible for us to react in a halfway reasonable fashion.

    3. The best argument against these programs isn’t that they can’t work, but that they can’t be trusted.

      There are indications that the government had identified the shooters and had even sent out a warning. That the warning didn’t make it to garland is another problem that the government will eagerly spend billions to solve.

      No, conservatives need to understand that the same people running this NSA program will be the same people who ran the IRS during the 2008 election. There are people who, upon speaking out about the IRS, found themselves visited by OSHA at their business and harassed by the FBI. Do we want the government to also know every phone call they’ve made, to whom and where they made it?

      This spying program may or may not work. Terrorism may or may not be a big deal. But we can say with absolute certainty that a government in control of this much power will use it against its own citizenry to keep control. It’s just a matter of when.

    4. “Lisa, I want to buy your rock.”

  3. There’s no evidence that I can win cash every day?? You’re such a buzzkill, Bailey.

  4. Our own government is at least 1 million fold greater threat to Americans than ISIS, Al Queda, and all the other Islamists combined. Where’s the legislation to protect us from them? Oh yeah, we already have that, it’s called the constitution and bill of rights, both of which are summarily ignored by our leaders today.

    Even the cops alone are a huge threat to the safety of Americans compared to any terrorist group.

  5. The newest fear that I’m aware of is ISIS obtaining nuclear weapons and using them domestically. I have not laughed that hard in a long time. It was one of those uncontrollable laughs. It felt good.

    1. Would be funny if they hacked MSNBC. And that would be ok because they’re a victim class, right?

      1. Just as long as they don’t hack H&R. We have our *own* squirrels for that, thank you very much!

        1. The squirrels could be islamist extremists squirrels, you never know. Let’s all draw Mohammed and see if they come out.

            1. +1 islamofascisquirrel

      2. What if they hacked MSNBC and no one noticed.

      3. Would be funny if they hacked MSNBC.

        Not that anyone would notice.

      4. Something, something… punching up… mumble mumble… privelege… yada yada… teachable moment…


      1. What if they stop global warming? Then they would be the biggest threat!

        1. This would make a great sketch. ISIS is awarded the Nobel Peace Price for their environmental work.

    3. “Brace yourselves…. Winter is hackers are coming!”

  6. Given the impending Section 215 expiration date, is it just a coincidence that national security state functionaries are ramping up terrorism warnings? I don’t think so.

    I was wondering about that in the “Is Sanity Finally Returning to Terrorism Prevention?” thread earlier. When a reason writer fails to give a hat tip for a story that a commenter linked to earlier that’s one thing, but taking a comment and expanding it into a blog post? WTF, Bailey?!

  7. If only the wolf would come and eat Jeh Johnson. I’d take him seriously, then.

  8. Alert level Force Protection Bravo? Isn’t that just above Regnant Zebra Oilslick and only one step below Squalid Motorcycle Potato?

    1. Whiskey tango foxtrot?

    2. FP Bravo is a real thing, but it’s happened many times without the media giving a shit. This is scaremongering bullshit.

    3. which would be a terrific name for a rock group.

  9. Yes, just a coincidence. Exactly the same way that Obo’s royal pronouncements arrive late on Friday. Coincidentally.

  10. You’ll see. When CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN goes off and the Black Chamber can turn any two cell phone cameras with a parallax biew into a SCORPION STARE weapons platform to fight the squamous ones, you’ll thank you political masters for eroding your privacy to nothing.

  11. After reading this article, and channeling my inner Alex Jones conspiracy theory, I must ask: Was the Pamela Gellar cartoon contest a setup by our government (or at least a part of it) to invoke an act of violence within our borders to gain favor for re-authorizing the (un)Patriot Act?

    1. If it was, it was a pretty crappy one. The Enablin….oops, Patriot Act is in effect now and the attack was not stopped. Of course that does not preclude it being true.

  12. My roomate’s sister makes $65 hourly on the laptop . She has been laid off for six months but last month her payment was $16050 just working on the laptop for a few hours.
    check out the post right here ???????????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  13. I call bullshit on this FP Bravo stuff. I’ve seen Tucson ANG (which is co-located at the civilian airport) up to Bravo on multiple occasions back in the mid- to late-Aughts for no apparent reason. There may have been a correlation with drill weekend, but I’m not sure. There was literally no outward difference between Bravo and Alpha back then, certainly no credible “terrorist” threats, though SOMETHING triggered the change.

    Though it was strange that WPAFB in Dayton raising to Bravo this time around was in NE Ohio news when I’m CERTAIN it’s happened many, many, many other times without any comment whatsoever. Someone’s feeding BS stories to the media.

  14. Some of the arguments have been less than plausible. Those that report an absence of threats for the past so many years are using obsolete data – ISIS was not around during those years, so the arguments are invalid. Positions on both sides are extremist and unrealistic and based on emotion rather than knowledge. If some decent thinking were applied, I believe that everyone can be satisfied with a program to combat terrorists.

  15. The government seems to have an incentive to allow a couple terror attacks to go off, so they can say, “see, we need more power to stop this sort of thing from happening!”

  16. c’mon Ron. next you’ll be telling me ATF staged made for TV raids right before their annual appropriations.

  17. Nathaniel . although Stephanie `s rep0rt is super… I just bought a top of the range Mercedes sincee geting a check for $4416 this last four weeks and would you believe, ten/k last-month . no-doubt about it, this really is the best-job I’ve ever done . I actually started seven months/ago and almost straight away started making a nice over $79.. p/h….. ?????? http://www.Jobs-Cash.com

  18. They were surprised there is an ISIS camp just over the border in mexico, so they say, they were caught off guard by this attempt in texas, they’re saying there are bands of loners out there being influenced by followers of this false prophet but they don’t know who they are, and by their own words, they will be here soon. So my questions is, How is the patriot act working for us? They actually get paid to “protect” us in this way?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.