The Patriot Act was passed shortly after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. The goal of this act was to increase the resources which different branches of law enforcement could use to track and catch terrorists. Primarily focusing on allowing the law enforcement to use surveillance against alleged terrorist without much oversight by the courts and other federal agencies. This would prevent information from getting into the wrong hands and thus making its way to the subjects which are being investigated. Surveillance has also been expanded to allow law enforcement to monitor activities on new technologies including computers. Another significant point of the Patriot Act is to streamline information-sharing and cooperation among different government agencies. But all of this comes at a significant price to our privacy and civil liberties.
The circumstances under which the Patriot Act was introduced have been criticized by many. This 380-page document was put together in haste. Just 45 days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, it was passed nearly unanimously by both the senate and the house.
What is the controversy behind the Patriot Act? While being lavishly presented by the government that the sole purpose of the Patriot Act is to fight terrorism. It does not clearly mention some of the more murky aspects of this act, such as: the lack of checks and balances over the law enforcement, the lack of a requirement to provide notice in the case of compromised privacy, and also the fact that law enforcement does not need to obtain a warrant or show probable cause when conducting an investigation. These are just a few points of the Patriot Act which undermine principles under which this nation has been built.
Not much outrage has been heard from the general public regarding this act primarily because of the way in which the act has been presented; in a very toned down manner with lots of bells and whistles which do not discuss the finer, more controversial points of the act. Non-the-less the Patriot Act has been taken to court by certain groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (or ACLU) and Center for National Security Studies in the case of Center for Nation Studies, et al. v. U.S. Department of Justice. The Center for Studies wanted the Department of Justice (or DOJ) to release the names of the 700 detainees that had been taken into custody in connection with the 9/11 investigations. The courts upheld the governments continuing refusal to release the names of the detainees. The court justified its decision, claiming that it was in the interest of national security.
The Patriot Act, the name itself is one filled with controversy. While being a clever acronym for "Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism" it suggest that if one is not in favor of this act one is not a patriot. This also mirrors the underhanded tactics under which the act was passed. How would a congressman be viewed, if he did not vote for an act which aims to eradicate terrorism in the United States of America. Maybe this is the reason why there was such a great percentage of congressmen who voted in favor of this act.
Patriot Act provides a great loophole which can be used unethically by law enforcement to detain alleged criminals for an indefinite amount of time without a proper hearing by any court. This is because the Patriot Act purposely does not provide a clear and substantial definition for the term Terrorist. Enabling the law enforcement to label any suspect as a terrorist and thus bypassing the whole system of justice under which this nation has been founded. A chapter of this act would make it possible for the authorities to deny that an individual who is being detained is in fact being detained, nullifying any possibility of defense for that individual.
The administration today has been preparing a new piece of legislature which would expand the Patriot Act even more. This legislation is officially called the "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003" but is refereed, to because of its consequential similarities to its predecessor, as the Patriot Act II. It will dramatically widen the powers of government to invade the privacy of the public, as well as creating sentence enhancements if one is to take steps to make it more complex for the government to conduct unannounced eavesdropping on you. Such as knowingly and willfully using encryption technology to conceal any incriminating communication or information. This would apply to any federal felony, most of which have nothing to do with terrorism.
From a personal perspective, the patriot act is working in a direction opposite of one which the our society should be heading. Do you want to live in big brother government watching your back for the secret police which can throw you into a dungeon to rot until you have been forgotten about. It is pathetic to see United States, the nation of democracy and civil liberties, give up all that it has stood for without a fight. Do not fall to the gimmicks employed by the government saying that this is for your own safety, after all who would protect you from abuses of your rights, by The Law.
The administration, it self, should take a step back and look at what it is trying to achieve and how it is trying to archive this. Will its own actions in fact make the lives of the public safer. Or is it just flooding itself with information for which it does not have adequate resource to effectively evaluate even a tenth of. What if an unscrupulous individual inside the governments starts to sell this information to private and corporate parties. Are you ready to give up much of your civil liberties for something which might or might not be of any benefit to you.
If you are like me and are at all concerned about your privacy you should voice your opinion on the Patriot Act to your congressman and let them know that you will not easily give up on your Civil liberties for which the founding father have fought for so hard.2004-05-24T02:56:12