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The Patriot Act: Not So Patriotic

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Since the September eleventh attacks Americans have been promised safety, but never fully given all of the details on how this would be accomplished. The Bush administration quickly used the attacks as acts of war by foreign aggressors and not criminal acts that required and should have been addressed by the justice system. Attorney General John Ashcroft pushed the envelope further by stating to the United States Senate that we were at war. As America was being engulfed by the fear of more attacks, Ashcroft pleaded for the means to defend the nation and its citizens from further terrorist attacks. Congress quickly, and without consequential review, rushed through the Patriot Act.

The Patriot Act, a bill passed overnight, revised the nation's surveillance laws on the government's authority to spy on its citizens, while erasing checks and balances set on those powers. It further allowed the Justice Department, FBI, CIA, as well as other federal law enforcement agencies to have, among other things, the virtually unmatched power of surveillance on citizens and non-citizens alike. Everything from e-mails to medical records to library accounts, if deemed necessary for investigation on supposed threats to the nations security, are open to scrutiny providing alarming access to once private information. Now legally any law enforcement agency can wiretap phones, break into homes and places of work, and access personal or financial records without probable cause, warrants, or even having to inform the persons involved of such acts in most cases. The Patriot Act also broadened terrorism to include "Domestic Terrorism", which could potentially be used to target activist groups within the country speaking out against the Bush Administration's policies and actions. As well as disregards attorney-client privileges, authorizes government surveillance of previously confidential discussions, and detaining Immigrants indefinitely based on suspicion alone, which has aided in the excessive amounts of unconstitutional and illegal deportations that are taking place.

These people, who we have elected to protect us from our unknown enemies, have told us we must be patient and not let our resolve be weakened by any enemy that plans and hopes to terrorize us due to, or from, our western way of life. And that our freedoms must continue through a strong unity even as both our way of life and freedom have been slowly and slyly taken away. Taken away not by our alleged enemies, but by the people so determined to protect us. And their way of protecting every citizen has been by destroying their liberties with the Patriot Act. A bill that is morally, if not constitutionally wrong, and should be amended.

The Patriot Act has become a heated issue within our current political environment. Created to defend our liberties from those wanting to destroy our way of life. It has instead become viewed as a number one threat to that way of life and our future as a democratically free nation to those who oppose it. As both sides of the argument, for the necessity of the Patriot Act, have points of view that are morally defendable. It has become harder to argue against the valid points of either side.

Due to the war on terror, we were given reasons for attacking Afghanistan's terrorist training camps. Yet as we went toward our goal of stopping terrorists where they were based, Iraq and its leader Saddam Hussein suddenly became linked to the terrorist leader Bin Laden and Al Qaeda the main terrorist leader and network. We were then informed that clear and proven reasons and facts were obtained regarding Iraq in situations trying to assist these terrorist organizations with the needed supplies to carry out further planned attacks, and we needed to stop them. Yet appearing daily on news outlets is information stating no apparent connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda has emerged or may never have existed. Information that could have confirmed earlier claims that there were connections and reasons for war. We were also told war, or major conflicts, were officially over and had come to an official end even as military and civilian casualties escalate with no signs of deceasing.

Some groups of people argue and believe that the government and law enforcement agencies should have, and be given, all of the power needed to capture and stop terrorists before they can act including military action. Some even go as far as willing to give away any rights to accomplish these goals. Those who are in favor of the Patriot Act can argue that allowing the government to investigate into one's personal life is necessary in the best interests and protection of each and every citizen of the United States. One cannot help but notice the similarities between advocate arguments for the Patriot Act and the philosophy of Utilitarianism. A doctrine advocating that any actions are right if they bring an overall good. And in this case, when it comes to the rights of people. If the violation of an individual's rights maximizes an overall good, it can be morally allowed for such an action to be perform. Now if applying this idea to the Patriot Act, anyone who advocates on its behalf should be able to argue that allowing our privacy to be invaded by any means of electronic surveillance and or other related observation is morally justified because the end result of protecting citizens from terrorism maximizes effectiveness in preventing such acts.

What they do not see is that the Patriot Act appeared to be working in the months after the September eleventh attacks when more and more people were being apprehended and we were constantly being told that the country had become safer due to the power allowed in the Patriot Act. Attorney General John Ashcroft even went as far as asserting that the Patriot Act had led to important successes in the war on terrorism. Yet the facts are that the people apprehended were apprehended due to minor immigration violations, and not terrorist activities or ties. His assertion linking indictments to terrorists and that the cases were dependent on the cooperation among local, state and federal intelligence and law-enforcement officials by the breaking down of the walls between them by the Patriot Act was misleading and somewhat false. The truth is that with the exception of one single provision allowing prosecutors to share grand jury information with intelligence officials, the Patriot Act did not eliminate any legal 'wall.' As legal insiders have observed, the walls between agencies were cultural and bureaucratic, not legal, and the Administration did not need the Patriot Act to bring them down. In actuality, the sharing of information among intelligence and law enforcement agencies has failed to improve since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Further more, the facts are that the United States government had all of



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