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The Patriot Act

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The Patriot Act.

On September 11, 2001 Muslim terrorists instilled with a hatred of the west attacked the United States in a brutal fashion. Planes were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center in New York. Over three thousand people were killed and the impregnable nation known as America was know scared and vulnerable. Almost immediately the legislature began drafting an act that would make the war on terror and the fight for homeland security a little easier to fight, this would come to be known as the Patriot Act

"PATRIOT" is an acronym for "Uniting and Strengthening America by providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. The Patriot Act allows the government and law enforcement agencies to have certain freedoms that have not been allowed since before the attacks. The most controversial part of the Act is that surveillance guidelines have been relaxed along with investigative guidelines, while no system of checks to safeguard civil liberties are provided (Podesta)

Another problem that is somewhat alarming was the quickness and haste with which the act was introduced-less than a week after the attacks. President Bush signed the Act on October 26 with no House, Senate, or conference reports. (Podesta) The Act is an expansion of the Anti Terrorism Act of 2001 (ATA) which was also intended to strengthen America against terrorism. Both acts expand the ability of law enforcement and an intelligence agency, the only difference is that the ATA contained safeguards against violations of constitutional rights. One of the safeguards was known as the "sunset provision", which stated that certain sections of the Act expired after a period of time if it was not renewed by congress. Due to the fear and pandemonium our country was suffering the implementation of the Patriot Act commenced without any sort of judicial oversight. This has caused people to be discontent with the violation of their constitutional civil liberties.

In the months before September 11, 2001 many ideas and provisions that are found in the Act were already being proposed and debated, especially those relation to electronic surveillance. Podesta states that the topic of broadening electronic surveillance was criticized harshly but after the attacks people chose panic over their misgivings. This is why the act passed so quickly.

Podesta warns that many of the provisions in the current Act give authorities the right to harass innocent individuals who only want to exercise their constitutional rights. This is especially true for groups of people in the United States. Immigrants, especially of Arab origin and those with Islam as their religion are seen as terrorists. This is blatant racism and discrimination which is also completely against what this country stands for.

Also concerned is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). This is an organization that is dedicated to raising awareness of civil liberties. The PATRIOT Act, as the name suggests is supposed to protect the citizens of the country from attacks across its borders. It defeats its own purpose in attacking from within the very people it's supposed to protect. In fact, it does almost the opposite by provoking a fear and paranoia that tends to remind us of such wonderful events like the Spanish inquisition or the Salem Witch Trials.

The ACLU talks about several groups that are unfairly targeted by the Act to the extent that the constitution is being violated. I have already talked about Arab and Muslims but even neighbors are supposed to report anything that "appears" suspicious. Turning people against each other is not only a reminder of the above mentioned historical events but it also leads to fear in a place where none is needed.

The Act gives law enforcement the right to search any building or residence that might prove suspect. It seems that such suspicion is easy to provoke making it likely that an innocent law abiding citizen will find himself inconvenienced said action. The agency in question is not required to notify the tenant or occupant before hand, nor do they need to have the occupant there while searching. (ACLU)

It appears then as the rights of the government increase the rights of the people decrease. The provisions of the Patriot Act have certain oppressive qualities that can't be tolerated here in America. Citizens fear each other based on religion and race because the government has targeted a specific religion and race to be more likely to be a terrorist or commit crimes against the country. Citizens also fear each other based on spying tactics made possible by the Act.

The ironic factor in this is that the United States has repeatedly condemned other nations for this same type of behavior. If the government continues to undermine our way of life then democracy as we know it will not exist. This is because the Patriot Act does not provide a balance between liberty and security.

To demonstrate the necessity of the Patriot Act and what it stands for, Chairman Hatch has made the statement that security and individual freedom are connected. In effect he is saying that freedom



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