Today the House of Representatives passed a bill extending or making permanent many of the provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. The Senate has yet to decide on which version it will pass. The provisions in question currently allow the government powers including the ability to secretly search the medical, financial, and library records of a person with out the normal burden of proof required for a search, get "roving" wiretaps that are not limited to any specific phone and apply to an unnamed suspect, and carry out secret searches of a person's property without that person ever being notified. It seems that members of congress are using the most recent attacks on London, among other things, to justify the extensions.
Terrorist attacks are designed to incite hysteria. I think the 9/11 attacks did a fairly good job of that. They were definitely dramatic and frightening, and I think what many people have lost sight of (including myself at times) is that rationally, statistically, terrorism still represents a relatively small threat for most of us. There are many things more likely to kill you than a terrorist attack. If terrorist organizations go on using the same tactics, this is likely to continue to be the case for the near future. In view of those facts, it is positively saddening how much of their liberty people are willing to relinquish. Often when discussing this topic, people will give a particular quotation by Benjamin Franklin, but at the moment I think a different quotation, by Patrick Henry, sums up my feelings:
Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
Laws like these are an affront to the liberty of every citizen. If I have to accept small risks to my life in exchange for my liberty, then I say it is a small price to pay, and I pay it gladly. After all, many have risked far more to protect the same.