Essay on The U.S. Patriot Act
The dreadful and terrifying events of September 11 necessitated and increased government's responsibility to take effective measures for preserving lives of the people and ensuring independence of the society. In this context, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and President Bush pledged to respond within boundaries set by the Constitution confronting and preventing terrorist attacks. Through Patriot Act, the law enforcement agencies of the Untied States are given the most effective tools to combat terrorists having intentions or plans to attack the nation. It is, in fact, a significant weapon for nation's fight against terror. Major purpose of the Patriot Act is to break wall of regulatory and legal polices existing between the law enforcement agencies and intelligence to share essential as well as related information.
Significance of Patriot Act
The law enforcement agencies and the government are given wide discretionary powers to acquire information not only from suspected people but also from the law-abiding Americans. After attacks of September, 11, the nation's top most priority is to defend its citizen from the terrorists using all information in the areas of finances, religious organizations, health etc. The law focuses on improving the counterterrorism efforts of intelligence and law enforcement agencies of the United States. It is pertinent to mention that civil freedom of American citizens is not only important during wartimes but also in the period of peace, as such the Patriot Act preserves both. The critics, however, are of the view that the Patriot Act is not successful in defending nations and does not sustain the vital balance of protecting privacy or individual freedom as provided in the Constitution and information required by the nation to counter terror activities to be performed by the law enforcement agencies and, therefore, efforts are needed to change the Act. (Gerdes, 2005)
Proponents, however, highlight its significance and consider it as an effective weapon provided to law enforcement agencies while ensuring freedom privacy, and equality of American citizens. The Patriot Act provides effective tools to combat terror. Moreover, it breaks down the wall built between intelligence and law enforcement agencies using available modern technology. It is considered as the response of U.S government to the September 11 attacks and supporting to make workable strategies for the future threats. The fight against terror has to be made not only by using military means but all intelligence gathering as well as law enforcement agencies should coordinate and cooperate with each other to respond and prevent terrorist acts. Traditionally, privacy and liberty of American citizens was considered a top priority compared with the national security. However, events of September 11 have altered the scenario and the dire need of today is striking a balance between acquiring information related to national security and the civil rights. (Greenwald, 2006)
Controversies in the Patriot Act
The major criticism of the Patriot Act is that it violates the civil rights and freedom of Americans. As such it is against the First Amendment. The Act, as per critics, was altogether not necessary as it has not provided extra efforts to fight terrorists. It is argued by the opponents of the act that it delays issuance of search warrants notifications so law enforcement agencies may delay giving appropriate notice for conducting a search. (Baker, 2005)
The Patriot Act allows for 'sneak and peak' activities abridging freedom as law enforcement agencies are allowed to probe even public libraries or bookstore records without any notification. Extensive and wide discretion of searching has been given to the government providing access to educational, financial, and health records. These activities are, in fact, against the right of freedom provided to the citizens regarding their privacy in the U.S constitution. (Gerdes, 2005)
The authority given to the government to violate individuals' privacy crosses the boundaries set in the Constitution as agencies can monitor e-mails; impose new requirements of book-keeping on financial institutions to acquire information posing threats to freedom, privacy, eroding basic civil rights. Opponents also view language used in the Act as unclear allowing vague interpretation of the Act challenging basic human rights of the citizens.
The law significantly abridges essential freedom as it expands powers or authority of federal as well as state government to monitor private act of any American, whether or not suspicious, including monitoring of web surfing and phone calls, access to the records of Internet Service Providers, and even private record of any person involved in legitimate strike or demonstration. This is considered spying by the law enforcement agencies in the affairs of private people eliminating privacy rights and expanding governmental activities to violate secrecy of individuals, eventually abridging essential freedom. (Gerdes, 2005)
Chronicle Issues Involving Renewal of the U.S. Patriot Act
The U.S. Patriot Act has been renewed due to emergence of several grave and chronicle issues especially related but not limited to terrorism. Changes were needed for providing support to Federal Agents in obtaining records related to citizens as well as communications in the fight against terrorism. Taping of phones and getting access to bank record was needed to check the flow of financial transactions benefitting terrorists. For this purpose, the Patriot Act is considered as an effective tool to fight terrorism. The Act has been renewed with the intention of making America a safe place, free of all terrorist activities.
Changes in the Act were needed for protecting civil liberties also. However, it is criticized that executive branch has been given wide powers. It is believed by the American administration that terrorists are still capable of attacking American interests and shore. The changed bill support law enforcement agencies in using the tools provided by the Act not only in terrorism but also monitor and check illicit drug activities aiming to protect civil rights of Americans. Moreover, Act provides tools to protect American infrastructure including possible attacks by terrorists on seaports, airports, and transportation system.
Due to excess extra powers given in the act, especially in the 'sneak and peek' sections in which government is allowed to tape phone of any American, Act has been renewed to limit the governmental powers in acquiring information from those individuals who are being the focus of investigations for terrorism. Currently three powers are due to expire and government is planning to renew these clauses so a continuous support remains intact. Among these possible changes is that government while checking business records, probing libraries and medical records should ensure that records are directly related to foreign intelligence and investigation.
Secret courts also known as FISA courts should be allowed to issue warrants to electronically monitor a suspect terrorist. Reason for allowing FISA courts such powers is to support authorities in finding a link between investigations being performed with any illegal international group.
As already mentioned, wide powers have been given to the administration to perform their tasks of protecting nation from any foreign and domestic threat. The Patriot Act allows detaining non-citizens in America without any charge holding for an indefinite period. The issues that led to include this provision are the formation of beliefs about any non-citizen living in America and whose actions could cause a threat to national security. Therefore, this measure is considered as a pro-active approach adopted in the Act.
It is pertinent to highlight that any peaceful group, dissenting from the governmental policies, cannot be targeted by the authorities to be charged as involved in domestic terrorism. It means only such activities come under the purview of Act that violates the state or federal laws and dangerous to national security as well as human life. The aim of renewing Act is to support American government in protecting people from enemies, ensuring civil liberties for everyone.
Effective functioning of Armed forces is dependent on successful intelligence information. Without concrete information, forces are unable to strike enemy and accomplish their objectives. For this purpose, strategies designed by the Armed forces are based on intelligence, effective communication, and adequate information. Therefore, Patriot Act facilitates Armed Forces to acquire necessary information. Furthermore, American President also needs ample information to conduct domestic and international affairs. Through Patriot Act, a smooth flow of solid information can be provided to Presidential office for managing its affairs.
The paper has shown the significance and main theme of 'U.S. Patriot Act' along with renewals made to the Act. Through Patriot Act, the law enforcement agencies of the Untied States are given the most effective tools to combat terrorists having intentions or plans to attack the nation. The paper then proceeds to provide an in-depth discussion on the chronicle issues that led to the passing of the Act. Furthermore, some of the issues have also been highlighted that forms the basis of renewing the Act. It can be concluded, at the end, that although a segment of people and experts view Patriot Act abridging civil rights, the Act provides effective tools to law enforcement agencies in combating domestic as well as foreign violence. `
Baker, S (2005) Patriot Debates: Experts Debate the USA Patriot Act, American Bar Association
Gerdes, L (2005) The Patriot Act (Opposing Viewpoints Series) Young Adult
Greenwald, G (2006) How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok, Working Assets Publishing
Ibbeston, P (2007) Living Under the Patriot Act: Educating A Society, AuthorHouse