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The USA Patriot Act: Balancing National Security and Civil Liberties

Feb 6, 2023 | 0 comments

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Feb 6, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

According to Scherer, democracy is government by the people in which the ultimate power is entrusted in them and implemented directly by them or by their elected representatives under an open electoral system (4). The Patriot Act is the most significant tools Congress has given to law enforcement to fight the people that want to kill Americans at home (Patterson 2).

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Both ideals convey the affirmation of Independence, of which the first obligation of government is to preserve the liberty and lives of the people. Following the horrendous events of September 11th, President Bush and his team, in a rare demonstration of bipartisanship, he pledged to do everything possible within the precincts of the Constitution to prevent future terrorist occurrences (Para 13).

The twin attacks on September 11th, 2001, prompted a nationwide need for amplified security and improved abilities for law-enforcement organizations to trail and halt terrorists. The Patriot Act was conscripted in response and it was presented to Congress by Republican Representative. Jim Sensenbrenner. The primary writer of the act, Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh, following his evaluation of Department of Justice procedures and practices in the event of the September 11 attack drafted Separate forms of the law which went before the House of Representatives and the senate (Patterson 21).

The account of the USA PATRIOT Act involved many groups who conflicted and reinforced the legislation, which was recommended, endorsed and signed into law 45 days after the 9/ 11 terrorist attacks. The Senate form was passed on October 11th 2001, but the House form was changed severally, then rewritten and reconciled with the Senate form before being sanctioned by the House. The Senate accepted this reviewed consolidated account and the complete bill was signed into law by President Bush on October 26th, 2001 (Finan 17).

The original act had a sunset paragraph which would have caused expiration of many of the law’s provisions in 2005. Meanwhile, opposition to the PATRIOT ACT had increased and Democrats used a empty talks to delay reauthorization (Steoff 45). The clause was prolonged for several months, but amplified Democratic supremacy in Congress enforced a compromise, and the laws were reauthorized in the beginning of 2006 with sequences of civil liberties safeguards in place. A lot of the act’s functions were lasting and three were not made permanent (Schulhofer 31).

The USA PATRIOT Act, though accepted by large margins in the House of Representative and the U.S senate, was contentious, and parts of the law were nullified or revised by successful legal contests over constitutional violations to civil liberties. A number of clauses were eliminated by the courts (Jacobs & Skocpol 27). Some provisions were confronted by the ACLU standing for American civil liberties union, filed a petition on the 9th of April, 2004. In April 2005, a Senate Judicial Trial on the Patriot Act was heard. The Act was extremely controversial, and more groups were lobbying against it. Aside from the the ACLU, the CDT , EPIC and many others, the Act had raised the fury of the American Booksellers Foundation for Freedom of Expression and American Library Association (ALA) , who were all extremely concerned about the elements of the Patriot Act (Para 6).

The Specialist Committee on Intelligence in June proposed legislation to the House of Representatives on July 21st as the USA PATRIOT on Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2005 (Steoff 33). It revoked the sunset timings for surveillance provisions of act – in other arguments; it would have made those segments permanent. Numerous of revisions were also proposed and approved. The famous sneak and peek elements of the Patriot Act were eliminated after the FBI unlawfully used the provision to apprehend Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield on suspicions that he had taken part in the Madrid train bombings 2004.The Patriot Act made numerous changes to U.S. law (Para 5). Major acts changed were the (ECPA) Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the (FISA) Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Money Laundering Control Act and the Immigration and Nationality and also the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) (Patterson 52).

According to Finan ,the Patriot Act permits investigators to use the equipment that were already accessible to investigate organized crime and drug traffickers by allowing law enforcement to use surveillance against more crimes of terrorism, allowing state agents to pursue sophisticated terrorists skilled to dodge detection allowing law enforcement to conduct investigations without tipping off terrorists and allowing federal representatives to ask for an order in the court to obtain business accounts in national security terrorism circumstances (43).

The Patriot Act enabled information cooperation and sharing among government supports so that they can better connect the clues (Steoff 34).Other changes restrict the length of duration the FBI can hold archives and prompt government officials to provide explanation of their motives for requesting surveillance and search warrants. The act on Domestic Security Enhancement was written by the Department of Justice but never given to Congress of which a leaked showed that the bill entailed harsh restrictions on civil liberties and massively expanded government powers (Scherer 33).

Through the US PATRIOT ACT, President George W. Bush steered the state into war, attack on civil liberties and more. He torn the U.S. Constitution, crushed on the Bill of Rights, casted-off the Geneva Conventions, and stacked scornfulness on the domestic torture statute and the U.N. Convention counter to Torture and other Inhuman, cruel or punishment or Degrading Treatment (Jacobs & Skocpol 43).

The Patriot Act diminishes or eliminates many of the civil liberties appreciated in the United States and assured by the Constitution (Patterson 53). The right to privacy (supported by numerous Supreme Court decisions) and freedom against unreasonable seizures and searches are the most notable infringements due to the increased government’s ability to conduct surveillance, obtain NSLs and perform pursuits without notification. The PATRIOT ACT also facilitated indefinite holding of material witnesses and accused terrorist without contact to lawyers (Finan 65). The Patriot Act included exceptional expansions of government surveillance controls, which included spying and government involvement in associational and political activity. It made widespread changes to FISA, getting rid of many of the safeguards against surveillance abuse.

The Patriot Act fraudulently increases the powers of the executive and eliminates many vital checks and balances (Schulhofer 29). The law has also been used inappropriately against non-terrorist criminals. For instance, it has been used to displace destitute people from train locations, to pursue drug traffickers and to collect financial data on casual visitors to Las Vegas .The results of an internal FBI inspection were released in 2007, which revealed that the agency had abused National Security Letters more than 1,000 times since 2002( Para 7).

According to Patterson, by the time it got to 2004, almost 300 municipalities around the United States had passed local legislation officially disagreeing with the Patriot Act and urging the Congress to repeal or modify it (19). One town in Arcata, California, approved a law making it a criminal violation to conform to those sections of the Patriot Act the township considered unconstitutional (Para 4).

The act also led to endless War. George Bush marched the American soldiers into Afghanistan and Iraq unlawfully and under false simulations, while Barack Obama has practically tripled the amount of wars. Thousands of nationals have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and millions have been exiled. In excess of 6,000 U.S. military members have been killed, and more than 50,000 injured in wars that have totaled the American people trillions (Jacobs & Skocpol 67).

It is not just where these wars are taking place, but how they are is alarming. According to Finan, drone strikes are being conducted in Yemen, Pakistan and Libya, nations on which Congress has not pronounced war (25). To the magnitude that Bush and his counselors ignored the law to validate torture, Obama and his counselors disregard the law to warrant warfare. Presently, his advisors are going to the extent of arguing that the President has the ability to side step the War Powers Resolution’s restrictions on independent, administrative war making, simply by using high-technology weapons like the drones, which do not have need of soldiers on the ground (Patterson 39).

The ACLU paraded the first lawsuit petitioning section 215 on 30th July, 2003 in state court in Michigan. The suit emphasizes that section 215 infringes on the First Amendment rights and privacy of all Americans to freedom of speech, association with the groups they select and freely exercise their religion (Finan 34). The petition was filed on behalf of six community and advocacy groups including a Muslim community association and an Arab-American civil rights organization who are certain that they are aims of investigations because of their religion, ethnicity and political associations (Para 5).

In Los Angeles ,the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of Humanitarian Law Project, filed a case which advocated for peaceful solution to conflicts, challenged a USA PATRIOT ACT clause making it a offense to provide expert assistance and advise to groups titled as terrorist by the executive (Patterson 47). CCR maintains that the presence of professional advice and help in the explanation of material support to terrorist groups is void for ambiguity and intrudes on fundamental First Amendment activities (Para 4). It is in this provision, that providing support in negotiating a peaceful solution is forbidden with respect to an external terrorist organization.

The three expiring elements of the Act (Section 215 Section 206 Section 6001) give the government full power to spy on the American people and in some cases, lacking any evidence of wrongdoing (Jacobs & Skocpol 36). NSLs allow the government access to the financial, communication and credit histories of persons deemed significant to a terrorism enquiry even if the person is not suspected of improper behavior (Para 6).

With each passing day, the outcry of the public grows over abuse of civil liberties in the USA PATRIOT Act. Three states, 149 cities, counties and towns have passed Civil Liberties Safe Zone resolutions and ordinances to safeguard the civil liberties of their inhabitants. One citizen in Newton, Massachusetts, solidly approved its resolution to supporting the U.S. campaign against violence, but also voiced a commitment that the campaign should NOT be conducted at the sacrifice of needed civil rights and liberties of the American citizens ( Scherer 23).Another citizen stated that it is the responsibility of the National Coalition to abolish the Patriot Act, independent public inquiries in cities around the country were conducted in July 2005 in order to collect testimony and information about the Act, police brutality ,civil liberties and racial profiling (Finan 49).Librarians across the states have been significant partners in fighting the Patriot Act. Virtually all American library associations have spearheaded the American Library Association endeavor in passing resolutions differing sections of the Act (Para 3).

As a result of the act, U.S. government, commits cruelty on prisoners held in indefinitely in detention, commits extrajudicial killings of American citizens and undermines freedom of the press (Schulhofer 69). It is evident that the Patriot Act has repetitively violated various parts of the United States Constitution related to the individual liberties of every American citizen; this in every way diminishes democracy in America (Para 2) . Most probably, Americans do not know where in the Constitution these acts are forbidden. But those we elect ought to know – as they swore to maintain and shield the U.S. Constitution against all adversaries domestic and foreign (Para 7).

The solution to curbing the effects of the patriot act is that the Congress should take note, democrats and republicans, liberals and conservatives alike should work together on a legislation that will eliminate the most tyrannical sections of the patriot act and abolish funding for programs that challenge personal privacy (Finan 63). Also the Patriot Act should be repealed (Para 3). The people should demand from their congressional representatives to protect their civil liberties or be conquered in the coming elections by someone who will (Patterson 70).

The NSL provisions should also be amended so that they can only collect information on suspected terrorists and not on all American citizens.

CONCLUSION – power to the people of America

Ten years on from attacks of 9/11, the president has claimed more power and the people have conceded more power. Federal trials were the standard for suspected criminal terroristic action; now, the method is military show that includes the death sentence or unknown or preventive detention. Increased illegal wars are being battled today than under Bush administration, more laws are undermined in the name of national safety and more people are being expatriated than ever in our history (Steoff 60).

Americans most probably do not question the Patriot Act very much because they are informed that it is only used for their protection (Para 7). Nonetheless, Americans should be very careful when it comes to giving the government too much power to pry into their personal lives.

In finality, the assessment of our democracy is to observe the actions that have been done under our watch and in our name – the repression, the wars, the extra-judicial killings, the profiling and the torture – and analyze if we are better placed to stop the acts and to ensure that they don’t occur in the future. We can definitely do that , we should demand the end the lawlessness, discontinue stockpiling the power of constitutional and move back towards a lawful path, democratic action and the restoration of the values that requires combined actions of the Americans (Patterson 75) . It is time we say to the regime, enough is enough and petition an end to the continuing injustices, and the return of our beliefs.

Works Cited

United States. Congress. House. Committee on the Judiciary and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. USA PARTIOT and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2005: report of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, to accompany H.R. 3199 together with dissenting views. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 2005.Print.

Lauri S Scherer. Democracy. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2008.Print

Lawrence R Jacobs & Theda Skocpol. Inequality and American democracy: what we know and what we need to learn. New York: Russell Sage, 2005.Print.

Thomas E Patterson .The American democracy. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2001.Print.

Stephen J Schulhofer .Rethinking the Patriot Act: keeping America safe and free. New York: Century Foundation Press, 2005.Print.

Louise I Gerdes. The Patriot Act: opposing viewpoints. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2005.Print.

Christopher M Finan .From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: a history of the fight for free speech in America. Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 2007.Print.

Rebecca Stefoff. The Patriot Act. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2011.Print

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