Congress sets trends of overreaction

It is understood by many Americans that SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act a.k.a. Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act) were bills that truly infringed on American civil liberties. If they had passed, these two acts would have destroyed the basic fabric of the Internet and given an unbalanced amount of power to moguls in the entertainment industry.

I understand that the goal of these bills was to protect intellectual property and stop illegal sites in their acts of piracy that negatively affect the industry and the American economy. However, the bipartisan sponsors of these bills need to understand that technology has changed the way we share entertainment.

Instead of trying to halt this wave of change, the entertainment industry must be innovative and adaptable.

SOPA and PIPA not only directly infringe on civil liberties, they are also overreactions and irresponsible acts of a Congress that chooses to pass legislation without in-depth education on the matter at hand. The efforts of Internet corporations and millions of citizens to postpone voting and cause members of Congress to reexamine the bills should be applauded.

Although the collection of opposition to these two bills is phenomenal, some issues must be addressed.

The first is that the amount of attention that this set of bills received was great but unbalanced. It seems that when there is a threat to our sources of entertainment, Americans react much quicker and in larger numbers.

While the Internet industry and its users were concerned with federal infringement online, a bill with an equal level of government infringement of rights was proposed, passed, and signed into law with little to no opposition.

The NDAA (The National Defense Authorization Act) is damaging to the rights of every American citizen. According to a Forbes magazine article, the act gives the president the power to detain any American citizen at home or abroad without trial.

Although White House officials and bipartisan sponsors uphold that the AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force) already grants presidential authority for indefinite detention without due process, the NDAA simply reaffirms this authority and enacts further provisions as to the implementation of that authority. Obama has stated that he does not plan to use this power, but I would argue that he already has.

On September 30, 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a drone attack. Although al-Awlaki was a leader of al-Qaeda operations in Yemen, he was also an American citizen.

If the president can use his executive powers to terminate an American citizen without due process, why is it inconceivable that those who are “perceived” as a threat to the nation can be detained without due process?

Terrorism is an act by a person or an organization of people that is meant to inspire fear into the hearts of its victims. The NDAA and other acts akin to it are passed in ignorance and in fear of something that is misunderstood.

This leads to my second issue. Congress is so far removed from the average American citizen that, unless you have lobbying power to rival a corporation, your opinions are nearly ignored. My theory is that SOPA and PIPA would have passed weeks after their initial introduction if Internet corporations like Facebook, Mozilla and Google did not express opposition.

No members of Congress should be allowed to vote on any bill unless they understand the subject at hand from multiple viewpoints and understand the ramifications of their votes. A Congress that passes legislation on subjects that it does not quite understand or out of fear of the unknown is an irresponsible Congress.

There is a reasonable expectation that exists for Congress to act responsibly.
Yet, judging by recent proposed legislation and the debt debacle last summer, I believe expecting Congress to act responsibly may be an unreasonable expectation.

Alex Turner is a senior political science major from Dallas.