Using the U.S. Patriot Act to Fight Terrorism

Many of the fundamental tenets of a free American society are founded on the basis of liberty. Americans enjoy liberty, but I surmise that many are unfamiliar with term. We as Americans can enjoy certain freedoms because of liberty. Liberty describes the condition of man to be able to govern him- or herself with regard only to the consequences of actions and decisions, the responsibility of liberty. Merriam-Webster (2011) defines liberty as “freedom from arbitrary or despotic control, the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges, and the power of choice” (para. 1). Using liberty as a foundational political philosophy, our forefathers prescribed our abilities as citizens in our freedom.

Faced with horrible, vicious, and unfamiliar terror, our society became frightened and called on our lawmakers to ease this fear. Without a full understanding of that which we were facing, the knee-jerk reaction that is the USA PATRIOT Act (2001) was signed into law. The unfortunate reality is that this law violates almost every libertarian prescription codified in the U.S. Constitution and those of the many states. No longer are we, as citizens, free to travel interstate by a common means of the day (air travel) without undue and warrantless searches and seizures. No longer can an American citizen be knowingly free to have private phone conversations without the fear of wiretaps, save for those that are reviewed by a judge to be warranted.

It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of . . . those liberties . . . which make[s] the defense of the Nation worthwhile” (U.S. v. Robel, 1967, pp. 258, 264). (as cited in Strossen, 2004, p. 368)

America is resilient because of the liberties enjoyed by every citizen. Legislation, such as the USA PATRIOT ACT (2001), undermines these liberties and creates a weaker nation as the focus turns towards government for the protection of the individual instead of the individual protecting the government as it has been since America’s inception. Focusing more on our freedoms and liberties while restating the need for each citizen to take an active role in their personal security and that of their community would go much farther than any knee-jerk legislation could ever hope to. I agree with Strossen (2004) that the USA PATRIOT Act is unnecessary, overreaching, and counterproductive the security of our free State.


Liberty. (2011). The Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved from

Strossen, N. (2004). Terrorism’s toll on civil liberties. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 9(3), 365–377. doi:10.1300/J146v09n03_07

USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-56, 115 Stat. 272 (2001).

The Patient Perspective: Patient Safety

The Speak Up materials provided by The Joint Commission (2011a, 2011b) do a great service in succinctly illustrating the need to be educated about health care issues. Patients and their families have a unique perspective to understanding their (or, their family member’s) health (Vincent & Coulter, 2002). Although physicians, nurses, and allied health providers are responsible for providing quality care, it remains the domain of the patient to express uncertainty or provide additional information to guide the provider. Ultimately, the patient or surrogate decision-maker must provide consent for treatment and must do so with full understanding. There are times, however, that the scope of treatment is so drastic, emergent, or specialized that the patient may not have the facilities to gain a full understanding of care needing to be rendered (Vincent & Coulter, 2002). This is the exception.

In the case of Josie King (Josie King Foundation, 2002; Niedowski, 2003; Zimmerman, 2004), which I elaborated on last week, Sorrel King, Josie’s mother, was educated about her daughter’s condition and spoke up as The Joint Commission recommends. Unfortunately, this case turned into tragedy not because Sorrel King did wrong but because the nurse disregarded her apprehension. This was tantamount to malpractice and no patient or family member could have prevented this, save for using force to physically prevent the administration of medicine. According to MacDonald (2009), there are nurses that believe “[patients] have no say and that medications are the domain of doctors, leaving the nurse and the patient to trust that the doctors would do the right thing” (p. 29).

Perhaps things were slightly different, however. As MacDonald (2009) explains, patient’s who are knowledgeable of their illness and take an active role in their health care decisions add another layer of safety, especially when considering medication action, reaction, and interaction. Medication prescription errors are numerous within health care, and as in the case of Josie King, improved communication between the physicians, nurses, and Sorrel King might have prevented Josie from being administered the narcotic and instead receiving the fluid she so desparately needed (Vincent & Coulter, 2002).

Health care should be patient-centric as it remains the responsibility of the patient to be educated about the care they receive and to provide consent for that care and treatment to be rendered. An uneducated patient does add risk, but sometimes this is unavoidable. It is in these instances that special care should be taken until a full medical history can be attained.


The Joint Commission. (2011a, March 7). Speak up: Prevent errors in your care [Video podcast]. Retrieved from

The Joint Commission. (2011b, April 5). Speak up: Prevent the spread of infection [Video podcast]. Retrieved from–prevent-the-spread-of-infection/

Josie King Foundation. (2002). About: What happened. Retrieved from

Macdonald, M. (2009). Pilot study: The role of the hospitalized patient in medication administration safety. Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare, 6(3), 28-31. Retrieved from

Niedowski, E. (2003, December 15). From tragedy, a quest for safer care; Cause: After medical mistakes led to her little girl’s death, Sorrel King joined with Johns Hopkins in a campaign to spare other families such anguish. The Sun, pp. 1A. Retrieved from

Vincent, C. A. & Coulter, A. (2002). Patient safety: what about the patient? Quality & Safety in Health Care, 11(1), 76–80. doi:10.1136/qhc.11.1.76

Zimmerman, R. (2004, May 18). Doctors’ new tool to fight lawsuits: Saying ‘I’m sorry’. Wall Street Journal, pp. A1. Retrieved from

Hacking Cyberterrorism

Although not particular to cyberterrorism, for this discussion I have chosen hacking as a type, or means, of cyberterrorism. Hacking covers virus loading and denial of service attacks, also. In order to carry out a cyberterrorism attack, it must be based on some sort of hacking. First, however, we must agree on the definitions of hacking and cyberterrorism. US Legal, a website dedicated to providing legal reference, broadly defines hacking as “intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access” (Computer hacking law & legal definition, n.d., para 1). Cyberterrorism is, according to Denning (2006):

…[H]ighly damaging computer-based attacks or threats of attack by non-state actors against information systems when conducted to intimidate or coerce governments or societies in pursuit of goals that are political or social. It is the convergence of terrorism with cyberspace, where cyberspace becomes the means of conducting the terrorist act. Rather than committing acts of violence against persons or physical property, the cyberterrorist commits acts of destruction or disruption against digital property. (p. 124)

Arguably, in order to use a computer system to do any of the above, it involves hacking, but without hacking, there can be no cyber- component to cyberterrorism, which leaves mere terrorism. Fortunately, using these definitions, there has never been a cyberterrorism attack ever in history (Brunst, 2008; Conway, 2011). Brunst (2008) goes further using the term terrorism to include the planning (and, even pre-planning) phases of an event. I disagree with this tact in scholarship. Brunst fails to provide the distinction between cybercrime and cyberterrorism. Thinking simply, having a Facebook account in order for ease of communication does not amount to meeting for coffee. Messaging a friend on Facebook and organizing a meeting does not constitute meeting for coffee. The act of two or more persons meeting for coffee is a conventional one, however it was planned. This is the same with terrorism. I argue that, although much planning and radicalization can occur using computer networking (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, general information websites, et al.), any terroristic act that stems from such organization would still be considered conventional terrorism unless the act, itself, is described as being technological in nature (Conway, 2011).

There is potential for a cyber-attack to generate fear, economic impact, and the loss of life. This is why we concentrate on security measures to ensure difficulty in accessing systems without proper credentialing, rapid identification and response to active intrusions and threats, and recovery techniques to identify and repair data, networks, and nodes that were involved. For this reason, networks are designed with human redundancy. Human redundancy, as Clarke (2005) explains, integrates human decision points within a technological operational structure in order to detect, indicate, explain, and correct an error. Additionally, infrastructure, a commonly regarded target by the experts, tends to be resilient by its own nature making cyber-attacks inefficient and ineffectual (Conway, 2011; Lewis, 2002; Wilson, 2005)


Brunst, P. W. (2008). Use of the internet by terrorists: A threat analysis. Responses to Cyber Terrorism, 34(1), 34–60.

Clarke, D. M. (2005). Human redundancy in complex, hazardous systems: A theoretical framework. Safety Science, 43(9), 655-677. doi:10.1016/j.ssci.2005.05.003

Computer hacking law & legal definition. (n.d.). US Legal. Retrieved from

Conway, M. (2011). Against cyberterrorism: Why cyber-based terrorist attacks are unlikely to occur. Communications of the ACM, 54(2), 26-28. doi:10.1145/1897816.1897829

Denning, D. (2006). A view of cyberterrorism five years later. In K. E. Himma (Ed.), Internet security: hacking, counterhacking, and society (pp. 123-139). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Lewis, J. A. (2002, December). Assessing the risks of cyber terrorism, cyber war and other cyber threats. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved from

Wilson, C. (2005, April 1). Computer attack and cyberterrorism: Vulnerabilities and policy issues for Congress (CRS Congressional report No. RL32114). Retrieved from

Cyberterrorism vs. WMD

Perhaps in an Orwellian society where computers are independant and there is very little human-to-computer interaction could a cyberterrorist cause such an impact as to be equal with a weapon of mass destruction. This is not true, however, regarding the technology of today. According to James Lewis (2002) from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “cyber attacks are less effective and less disruptive than physical attacks. Their only advantage is that they are cheaper and easier to carry out than a physical attack” (p. 2). Studies of the implementation of efforts to reduce the effectiveness of infrastructure during war show a resiliency that is poorly respected. Redundant systems in conjunction with a focused human response provides mitigation to reduce the impact of disruptive efforts on infrastructure (Wilson, 2005). It seems the more important the system, the larger and focalized the response.

The northeast blackout of 2003 provides a decent case study, although the cause was a systems failure and not related to terrorism. According to the article by Minkle (2008), within an hour and a half, 50-million subscribers lost power in eight states and parts of Canada for a few days, yet it only contributed to about 11 deaths within the affected area. While the impact was significant, geographically, it was more or less a nuisance for most people.


Lewis, J. A. (2002, December). Assessing the risks of cyber terrorism, cyber war and other cyber threats. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved from

Minkle, J. R. (2008, August 13). The 2003 northeast blackout — five years later. Scientific American. Retrieved from

Wilson, C. (2005, April 1). Computer attack and cyberterrorism: Vulnerabilities and policy issues for Congress (CRS Congressional report No. RL32114). Retrieved from