The USA Patriot Act, Article Critique Example
Words: 1485Article Critique
The USA patriot act came into existence in the year 2001, immediately after the attacks on the American financial hub in the city of New York. The attack brought tension among the citizens of America, and the federal government as a whole. The federal government, under President Bush, thought that the country had not initiated adequate measures to ensure the safety of Americans from terrorist attacks. After the attack in September 2001, government thought that there was a need to make amendments in the constitution, in order to tighten the security systems of most of the operations within the country. Some of the aspects of the patriot act included the increase in power for the police force and the FBI department over the private lives of citizens. The act also required that all libraries were to install surveillance cameras in their premises, as a way of monitoring the activities within the library. President Bush believed that the current measures and security system was not efficient in monitoring threats of terrorist attacks from foreign enemies. Because of these considerations, the government drafted the patriot act hurriedly, as one of the ways of controlling and reducing vulnerability to attacks from terrorists.
However, since the government undertook the process of actualization of the patriot act in a quick manner, there were chances that the act could have flaws. Within a few months of the existence of the act, many organizations and individuals had come out to criticize the act. Some claimed that the act could not balance its main objective of security enhancement, and the freedom of its citizens, which is a constitutional right of all American citizens. As much as the patriot act had its own benefits, such as a high level of examination of immigrants on borders, critiques have argued that the act massively interfered with the private lives of citizens of America. In this essay, we highlight some of the main areas in the patriot act that have brought controversy (Abramson and Godoy).
The first area of concern of the patriot act was the information sharing section. The act allowed criminal probes to share high profile information with other intelligence agencies such as the FBI and the CIA. Proponents of the patriot act claim that the enactment of this legislation enhanced level of information sharing between the criminal system and intelligence agencies in the country. They argue that this provision increased the level of transparency and coordination between intelligence agencies in America.
On the contrary, the opponents of the provision argue that, with no restrictions in the sharing of information between criminal probes and other intelligence agencies in the country, there are chances of the development of massive databases of individuals who do not have criminal records. Free sharing of the security detail would imply that the agencies would follow up citizens who are not criminal targets.
The other provision by the patriot act was to allow security agencies and intelligence agencies to monitor calls, conversations and emails of people in the country. This was one of the ways of tracking criminal plans and terrorist preparations. The enactment of this provision helped massively in the tracking of criminal organizations. This is because, with the technology, intelligence officers could record conversations and locate the user of the cell phones using certain devices. This helped in tracking the terrorists before they executed their terrorist attacks (Ball 56).
However, on the contrary, the provision interfered with the private life of American citizens. The provision meant that intelligence agencies could access calls and conversations of all individual in America. A majority of these citizens may not be suspects or participants in any terrorist activities. Thus, tracking their calls and conversations is a violation of the privacy of citizens.
The patriot act also allowed for easy access to records of transactions between clients across borders. With the existence, of the provision, intelligence officers and criminal investigators could obtain books, documents, papers and records that relate to any form of investigation that the officers were undertaking. Proponents of the patriot act claim that this provision could enhance the level of investigations in America. For instance, investigators could be able to conduct and access all forms of information pertaining criminal investigations and terrorist claims.
However, the implementation of this provision also had its negative consequences on the lives of American citizens. For instance, investigators could use this provision as an opportunity to demand to read material from library owners for other reasons other than investigations.
The patriot act also gave power to the police department, and intelligence officers, to conduct impromptu searches in houses of citizens without prior notification. According to the government, this was to help in enhancing immediate response to any claims of terrorism attacks (Abramson and Godoy).
However, critiques view this move as a total violation of the rights of American citizens. The American constitution provides all American citizens the rights over their houses. Any form of search requires authorization from reliable authorities and prior notification to the owner of the house. Thus, by allowing officers to conduct searches in houses without prior notice to the house owners, government was violating the rights and the privacy of its citizens.
The patriot act denied or interfered with the freedom of citizens in many perspectives. For example, the fact that intelligence agencies could access the conversations of individuals meant that citizens did not have the freedom of speech and expression as it was before the implementation of the patriot act. Analysts claimed that the patriot act failed to balance between the government’s objective of beefing up security against terrorist attacks, and the constitutional provision of freedom to the citizens of America.
The other section in the patriot act that received criticism from analysts is the new regulations on immigrants. The patriot act required the immigration agency to increase the checks on the boundaries, for all individuals entering and leaving the country. This was to ensure a close monitoring of the security of all individuals entering America (Mathew 23). However, this provision, according to analysts, interfered with the privacy of some citizens. According to the new law, intelligence and police officers had to conduct a thorough check of all individuals, regardless of their nationality, when the individuals were moving in and out of the country. This was unnecessary, especially to the American citizens, who did not have any links with terrorist attacks (Scheppler 65).
The other critique of the enactment of the patriot act was that it expanded the presidential powers by a huge margin. According to one of the attorneys in America, President Bush viewed the war on terrorism as a war conflict. He thus exercised his powers as commander in chief. For instance, analysts claim that President Bush authorized the impromptu searches in people’s houses without legal permission from courts, and without prior notification of the owners of the target houses. This was a violation of the laws of the American constitution. The other instance where President Bush exercised his excess powers from the patriot act was when the government, under President Bush’s administration, illegally kept an American citizen in custody on grounds of terrorism. The American government had allegations that this citizen was making a plan of bombing a section of America. The police department locked the citizen for an indefinite period, which was a violation of the civil rights of the individual (Scheppler 84).
The patriot act also extended to the residential areas of American citizens. According to one of the sections in the act, it was a requirement that all household were to install surveillance cameras in their residential houses. This was a way of monitoring any form of activity that had a terrorism link. As much as this could be a positive move by the government in its war against terrorism, analysts argue that this was interference of the private affairs of American citizens. Security agencies and the police department could have full access of all activities in the households of all American citizens. Majorities of the American citizens are innocent in terms of terrorism links, and thus, the implementation of such a program could be a violation of the rights of privacy for all citizens.
In conclusion, many observers have argued that the patriot act needs immediate and extensive amendments before it can achieve its primary objectives. There is a need to merge the desires of the government, which is to contain terrorism, and people’s rights such as movement and privacy. Government would achieve its objective of containing terrorism, but at the expense of individual’s rights, if it does not make amendments to the act.
Ball, Howard. U.S.A. Patriot Act of 2001. New York: ABC-CLIO, 2004. Print.
Abramson, Larry and Maria Godoy. The Patriot Act: Key Controversies. Web. 14 February 2006. 4 May 2012 <http://www.npr.org/news/specials/patriotact/patriotactprovisions.html>.
Mathew, Philip. Implications of US Patriot Act on Human Rights: Analysis. New York: GRIN Verlag, 2008. Print
Scheppler, Bill. The USA Patriot Act: Antiterror Legislation in Response To 9/11. Chicago: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2005. Print.
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