Prior to 1993, federal law enforcement agencies, specifically the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), felt more than adequate in investigating and preventing terrorism on U.S. soil (Smith & Hung, 2010). On September 11, 2001, as has been done on numerous emergent occassions, the U.S. government all but suspended Article III, Sec. 2 and Amendments II, IV, V, VI, IX, X, XIII, XIV of the U.S. Constitution in the name of protecting liberty; a premise I find sadly ironic.
According to an article by Abramson and Godoy (2006), the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act (2001) promotes intelligence sharing among the intelligence community, utilization of technological tools to combat tech-savvy terrorists, allows easier access to the business records of suspected terror supporters, allows search warrants to be affected without undermining other concomitant investigations, and allows wiretaps to be dynamic in order to follow the target suspect more easily. Detractors of the USA PATRIOT Act, however, argue that these measures undermine certain liberties that Americans are right to enjoy. These detractors warn of information cataloging that could lead to massive data stores of private information of regular citizens, unwarranted investigations, searches, and seizures of casual contacts of someone under investigation, and general use of “sneak and peek” warrants for the investigation of petty crimes.
One particular part of the USA PATRIOT Act, the usage of letters of national security that demand secrecy of government involvement from the recipient, was struck down by a federal judge based on Constitutional freedom of speech issues (Liptak, 2007). This is no surprise. Passing 357 to 66 in the House of Representatives and 98 to 1 in the Senate just six weeks after 9/11 and with little debate, this knee-jerk legislation was destined for failure, at least where public relations is concerned (Weigel, 2005).
The USA PATRIOT Act (2001) grants immeasurable power to law enforcement to investigate and prevent terrorism, this is a good thing; however, most of the provisions seem to fail whenever exercised against a U.S. citizen or lawful resident (Weigel, 2005). We need to rethink our approach to terrorism and ask the question of ourselves: is our safety worth every ounce of our liberty?
Abramson, L. & Godoy, M. (2006, February). The Patriot Act: Key controversies. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/news/specials/patriotact/patriotactprovisions.html
Liptak, A. (2007, September 7). Judge voids F.B.I. tool granted by Patriot Act. The New York Times, pp. A18. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com
Smith, C. S. & Hung, L. (2010). The Patriot Act: issues and controversies. Springfield, IL: Thomas Books.
USA PATRIOT Act. P. L. 107-56 Stat. 115 Stat. 272. (2001).
Weigel, D. (2005, November). When patriots dissent. Reason, 37(6). Retrieved from http://www.reason.com/news/show/33167.html