Tom Evslin: 9/11, COVID-19, and civil liberties

This commentary is by Tom Evslin of Stowe, an entrepreneur, author and former Douglas administration official. It is republished from the Fractals of Change blog.

Twenty years ago Congress quickly enacted the Patriot Act, which abridged some civil liberties to confront a clear and present danger whose extent we did not know. In the last two years many civil liberties have been curtailed because of the actuality of a pandemic and the impossibility of predicting its course.


Twenty years after 9/11 many question whether the Patriot Act and other reactions were worth the cost in loss of civil liberties and in the abuses of the surveillance powers granted by the act. The questions are worth asking even though the simple answers on either side are garbage.

Tom Evslin

A democratic society must be able to react to threats or it is a sitting duck. I think it was right to waterboard Sheik Mohammad to find out what might be coming next (the waterboarding was not specifically authorized by the Patriot Act but it was allowed by the government). I think it was right to authorize new surveillance of communication with FISA Court approval. There has not been another major attack by foreign terrorists on US soil (fingers crossed) since 9/11.

On the other hand our focus on foreign terrorists led us to underestimate domestic threats from both the right and the left. We saw our capital under siege and then invaded. Portland, Oregon is still the scene of almost daily violence between the right and the left. Kenosha is still not rebuilt after riots decimated its downtown. The FISA Court was misled and misused to spy on the Trump Campaign in 2016; that’s wrong no matter what you think of Trump. We live in a surveillance society — but that’s more because we choose to use Google, Facebook, Amazon etc. than because of the surveillance powers granted to government.

The Patriot Act had sunset provisions starting in 2005. Smaller and smaller subsets of it were reauthorized legislatively under both Bush and Obama until 2020 when the last provisions expired so it is no longer a threat to any civil liberties.


Starting in March of 2000 both the executive branch of the federal government and many state governors took emergency action because of the pandemic. It seemed inconceivable at the time that we could be ordered to stay at home, businesses could be ordered to close, interstate travel essentially banned, and landlords forbidden to evict tenants for non-payment of rent. Who knew there was so much executive power? But most of us accepted most of the restrictions since we had good reason to fear the pandemic simply overwhelming our medical facilities. With hindsight some actions were probably excessive — closing schools, for example — but we didn’t know, and still don’t know, how much worse the pandemic might have been just as we don’t know how many terror attacks would have happened without the Patriot Act and hard interrogation.

Even with hindsight I think much emergency executive action was necessary. However, prolonging the states of emergency which allowed for these unilateral actions by the executive branch was not necessary and puts civil liberties at great danger now. When the Vermont Attorney General was asked when the state of emergency would be over, he said something like “when the governor declares it over.”

Fortunately for Vermont, Governor Scott did end the state of emergency although many other governors haven’t. In the wake of the Delta variant, Scott has been criticized by legislators and other for not reimposing a state of emergency which would, among other things, order rather than advice school districts to adopt mask mandates on their own.

Where the hell are congress and the state legislatures?

The governors had to act quickly and unilaterally last spring. It’s been a year and a half since the pandemic was recognized but very few state legislatures have acted either to impose their own mandates or to give the governor the explicit authority to do so or set rules for their own review of emergency decrees. The Vermont legislature could have voted for a mask mandate – hopefully with a sunset. They didn’t; more convenient to let the governor take the heat one way or the other. Cases are rising alarmingly again in Vermont. What is the legislature doing this time? Criticizing the governor for not declaring another emergency, apparently without realizing the harm to both health and democracy they do by not acting.

Biden was right to require vaccinations for federal workers and federal contractors. Similarly requiring care facilities which are paid by Medicare or Medicaid to require their employees to be vaccinated is good public health and passes constitutional muster. The federal government requiring employers of over 100 people to require vaccination serves a good purpose but is constitutionally shaky. State legislature, who have authority over workplace safety could legislate a similar requirement, but they haven’t. The federal government could require passengers in interstate commerce to be vaccinated just as it required them to be masked. But it hasn’t.

The FDA claimed the authority in a health emergency to suspend many evictions. The Supreme Court ruled that was overreach. Congress probably has this authority; but it didn’t act. Instead President Biden reimposed the expired FDA rule despite what even he acknowledged was its inability to withstand a constitutional challenge (it didn’t). Biden looked sincere when he took the oath to defend the constitution ;but, gosh, it’s an emergency.

Every interest group in the country is claiming that their cause is a “health emergency” meaning that the democratic process can be ignored if it stands in the way of their goals. Can’t pass gun control? Just declare an emergency and impose it by executive order. If racial injustice is a “health emergency”, then anything done in the name of racial justice can bypass the legislative process. What about climate?

The Patriot Act was passed by Congress and included sunset provisions. The states of emergency are largely both unlegislated and unlimited.

Democracies die in a state of emergency!

Image courtesy of Public domain

43 thoughts on “Tom Evslin: 9/11, COVID-19, and civil liberties

  1. “Thousands” of COVID-19 Vaccine Whistleblowers Contacting Project Veritas Wanting to Tell Their Stories
    Posted By Brian-Admin On September 17, 2021 @ 5:48 pm In Medicine Watch | No Comments
    by Brian Shilhavy
    Editor, Health Impact News

    The U.S. Government and the corporate media’s narrative regarding the COVID-19 vaccines is quickly falling apart.

    Truth is kind of like REAL cream in non-homogenized fresh milk: it rises to the top.

    We reported earlier this week how a local TV station in Detroit asked viewers on their Facebook Page to send them stories of loved ones who had refused the COVID-19 vaccines and had now died, but instead tens of thousands of comments came in about COVID-19 vaccine injuries and deaths (219K at the time of publication of this article). See:
    Includes gallery:

  2. The author should ignore “democratic” process that will favor progressive majoritarianism. His concerns are RINO like our psuedo-RepubliCrat Governor Scott.

    The true concern should be the Jacobsen case all these mandates and Vax police state actions are depending upon. In Jacobsen v. Massachusetts (1905), the SCOTUS merely said such mandates May be democratically issued and that the Police Powers of the individual states prevented Federal pre-emption to an extent on issues of public health & safety. The subsequent interpretations of the “extent” allowable included Eugenics, forced sterilizations at mental health and prison facilities and medical experimentation by the U.S. DARPA and armed forces on troops and the public.

    I don’t wish to be revisionist here, but is that the SCOTUS case you want to plant your civil rights in or will we repudiate the broadness and vague nature of Police Powers now before it is too late? Mass litigation is due under the Biden Mandate Doctrines, and should allow broad Class Actions under the Bevins ruling against all state actors and contractors and agents who act to enforce even the most well intentioned mandates. Teachers, employers who accept federal funds, TSA, FAA FDA, CDC all should be sued into total gridlock starting now!!!

    Hands Off My Body, Hands Off My Children!

  3. Re: “COVID-19 Starting in March of 2000 both the executive branch of the federal government and many state governors took emergency action because of the pandemic.”

    Was there a ‘pandemic’ in March of 2000?

  4. Australia Has Begun Building COVID Concentration Camps
    Matt Vespa Posted: Aug 26, 2021 6:00 AM
    “In Australia, that latter nightmare is already alive and well. You’ve seen the reports of teenagers and old people being tasered and pepper-sprayed for not abiding by the nation’s COVID protocols. We’re tasering you for your health. We’re pepper-spraying you…for your health. It’s part of Australia’s COVID zero policy which ensured a forever pandemic, a never-ending lockdown. And now, we have COVID concentration camps coming. It’s come full circle.”

  5. Epic Fail for Taliban Joe and the gas-chamber shot:
    FDA Panel Slaps Down Biden’s COVID Booster Plan
    Matt Vespa Posted: Sep 17, 2021 4:15 PM
    “The Biden administration just got a shot of rejection today. Food and Drug Administration’s panel formally rejected a Biden plan for COVID boosters for most of the general public. Those who are 60 and older might be approved for a booster shot, but the experts were clear: the data is simply not there for most Americans. Also, the vote wasn’t even close (via CNBC)”

    • Australia Dispatch
      Australia Is Betting on Remote Quarantine. Here’s What I Learned on the Inside.
      By Damien Cave Published Aug. 20, 2021 Updated Sept. 17, 2021
      I looked out the window as if my confusion could be cleared by the brown all around me — the single-story metal lodging, the pathways, the bags of food that had just been dropped off by workers in face shields. It was not yet 5 p.m. and they were delivering dinner?

      Such is life in a former mining camp near the northern tip of the country, in a place called Howard Springs — a temporary home for hundreds of domestic and international travelers being forced to wait around long enough to prove they’re Covid-free.

    • Tucker Carlson Canadian Vaxxentration Internment camps:
      “Trudeau’s internment policy has been in been place since last month, and as far as we can tell, no major U.S. news network has mentioned it. Neither has our State Department, which ordinarily seems to exist to make unhappy noises about human rights violations around the world. But not a word about Canada. Preconceptions may play a role in this. We assume that interning people is what Russia does. Boring people is what Canada does. But not anymore.”

  6. The author seems to think legislation and his concept of Democracy are all that matter, yet he really believes in manipulating around laws of the universe by ignoring sovereign individual liberty.

    Such goals are merely misguided attempts to control where there is no jurisdiction!

  7. No act of any legislative body within the United States that subordinates or suspends individual liberty is neither Constitutional or moral.

    • Wish there was an edit feature for these posts. I will correct:

      No act of any legislative body within the United States that subordinates or suspends individual liberty is either Constitutional or moral.

    • 24 Red States including NH are fighting this – hoping for emergency injunctions until it can work its way thru judicial system.

  8. “Biden was right ”
    You lost me right there Tom… Bidumb has NEVER been right on any issue
    the last 48 years he’s been a swamp creature and it isn’t a shaky mandate
    it’s a ILLEGAL mandate.. maybe you should take up fishing as your not too good at propaganda

    • Swine flu vaccine was stopped in 9 states after 3 people die from the shot..

      vaers is reporting almost 15,000 which is likely 10% of the real number,,
      Europe is listing 18k on theirs dying from the vax… when do the
      mandated killings stop??? This plus the 120k that now have disabilities from it too…

    • Biden is not dumb ! He knows EXACTLY what he’s doing. Paying back the Chinese for making his family rich.

  9. Emergency powers are great for those subverting a country, it’s all planned. Create the chaos and strife, then comes the “normalization” as the kgb would say. Otherwise known as military occupation and take over. Done across the world to many, many countries. Just like the New World Order pimps are doing it the United States today! Same as it ever was.

    It’s happened so,many times before, with such planned, scripted predicatability fiction writers were able to predict current events here in America years before with uncanny accuracy. 1984? Animal farm?

    VERMONTERS, can’t tell the difference between the pigs and thieves in Montpelier, they all look and act the same. And like animal farm some people are more equal than others, guess what town they work in?

    • You are absolutely right Neil, all scripted to fulfill a prophecy, this subversion is no accident.

      The statement in this article that, “Democracies die in a state of emergency!”, says it all.

      We are a Constitutional Republic, not a Democracy!

      Believing we are a Democracy instead of a Constitutional Republic is precisely what is killing us!

      Who cares about liberty under a system of Democracy where a majority or a corrupt minority can rule by fear?

      The goal must be Liberty, the vehicle to achieve it is a Constitutional Republic!

      • Then why aren’t the Republicans in Vermont introducing legislation to teach that in the schools. The ideal text book for this would be The 5000 Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen.

        • That’s a great question. We must look at actions, not words and rhetoric to understand people’s true intent and heart.

      • Sadly 85% of those living in Vermont know not the difference between the two, this because of school indoctrination forced upon our teachers and students.

  10. Tom is right that our constitutional republic (not democracy) will die in a state of emergency, but he’s wrong that Biden was right to require vaccinations, or that any state has any right to impose mask or vaccine mandates.

    In Sweden, almost no one wears masks and their death rate from Covid is less than ours, and less than many nations. No amount of double-speak “studies” can counter that real-world evidence: masks don’t do much at all, as we’d expect for a virus that’s so small.

    I have to admit I’m a bit confused by this commentary. If democracies die in state of emergency, is it still OK if we impose medical mandates on the population, so long as it’s the legislature and not the Governor who does this?

    I think Tom needs to decide whether he’s for we, the people, or if he’s for the supremacy of the state to tell us what to do and keep us safe (as if we’re too stupid to figure it out.)

    • Let it also be known that with Vermont having the greatest percentage of “vaccinated” population, it also has seen a tremendous increase in covid cases, even more so than before the inoculations were propagated. Hardly a coincidence.

  11. as soon as I saw the word Douglas, I had to make a descision is this about Justice Douglas or Vermont Communist Douglas…. bye

  12. I stopped reading after, “We saw our capital under siege and then invaded”. I sensed what was coming next from the man who pushed for mandatory vaccines of the non-vaccine experimental drug and mandated masks. This guy should be writing over at Vtgravedigger and I wouldn’t have to see it. Another word salad from a guy terrified of life who is supposed to be a republican. This guy apparently doesn’t read much outside of his little Vermont bubble and the left stream media. It’s a bit difficult to have a siege and invasion when no one is armed except the capitol police who shot and killed a 110lb. women and 15 year Air Force veteran.

    • Suspect Mr Evslin – acting TNR resident shill for Depopulation Shot and Gas Chamber Project is paid “influencer’ as evidenced by the amount of posts, as well as following the rules, such as public testimony of receiving the shot itself, continual shapeshifting always finding a new angle to shoehorn the shot:
      OCCHD To Pay Social Media Influencers To Promote COVID-19 Vaccine
      Friday, March 12th 2021, 5:43 pm By: Brittany Toolis
      OKLAHOMA CITY – As more Oklahomans receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the Oklahoma City-County Health Department is taking a creative approach to getting the word out.

      Instead of using doctors, scientists, or health care workers to promote getting vaccinated, the OCCHD is turning to influencers to get the message across…The department is using the reach of local Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube influencers.

    • I agree Dano.. this guy seems like a Digger Fan. That is just what I was thinking as well the entire time I was reading this.
      The bottom line is that we are supposed to be a nation of free people.
      It’s not up to the government to make us safe, it’s up to us to make our own selves safe in a way that we wish to do.
      We need real factual information about what is going on with the virus, give us options and then we pick what we want to do- or we don’t do anything..
      And whatever we all do is okay with our fellow Americans because they were free to make their own choices too.
      THIS is the American Way and what should have happened.
      This is what We The People should have *Made Happen*.
      There is not one word in our Founding documents that say that it’s up to the government to make us safe.
      What “Safe” is, this is not even a word that we’d all agree with the definition of at this point.
      What safe is is up to the individuals.
      Has everyone thought about the fact that we’ve been taught to hand over our rights to make things “Safe”. Do we worship at the Altar of Safety now?
      What a bunch of unintelligent, scared and wimpy sheep that just follow orders our people have turned into.. it’s appalling. We would have never achieved what America historically achieved with a population like this- and that right there is just what the point is, to bring us down to size and equalize this super power nation of over achievers down to size with the rest of the world.. we all know this, and yet here we’ve allowed them to do this to us.
      It’s so shameful.
      I feel like America has been turned into a psych ward by this toxically corrupt government..

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