The scope and nature of the problem is that after September 11, 2001 the government has enhanced its surveillance procedure to a frightening level. With one policy, “The USA Patriot Act-2001,” the US government has effectively turned the United States of America into a police state. This policy gives the government run agencies the right to spy on its citizens. Agents can gather information by physically watching, or by other covert means such as wire taps. It is no longer a specific phone line but on individuals. It allows service providers to disclose information and protects them from court action when the do. It permits a delay in warrant notification, giving agents the ability to search before they have a warrant in hand. This policy gives the government the right to accuse, intimidate, and imprison its citizens of terrorism, and ignore the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was created to protect the people from various injustices that the government could commit.
The amendments that are affected the most are the 1st, 4th, and the 6th. (Asian Tribune,[Hallstavik],June 5,2012, US Patriot Act has denied Americans their freedom) Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of people peaceably to assemble, and petition the government for a redress of grievances.(Hamilton, A.,1775, The Bill of Rights) The Patriot Act gives the government the freedom to monitor religious and political institutions without just cause. The government also now has the authority to prosecute any type of record keeper if they reveal that the government has subpoenaed information from them for a terrorism
Investigation. (Asian Tribune, [Hallstavik], June 5, 2012, US Patriot Act has denied Americans their freedom) Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause. Supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. (Hamilton, A., 1775, Bill of Rights) The Patriot Act of course now gives the US government to do just that. They may search and seize a citizen’s property without probable cause regardless of it pertinence to a terror investigation. (Asian Tribune [Hallstavik], June 5, 2012, US Patriot Act has denied Americans their freedom) Amendment VI: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed at the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense. (Hamilton, A., 1775, Bill of Rights)
The Patriot Act has given the government the power to jail US citizens indefinitely without charge or trial, or even to confront the witnesses against them. Once labeled an “unlawful combatant”, the accused can and have been held without communication and denied their right to an attorney. When they are permitted the attorneys and housed in a federal prison, they lose the right to attorney/client privilege. The government now has the right to monitor those communications as well. (Asian Tribune [Hallstavik], June 5, 2012, US Patriot Act has denied Americans their freedom)
Though there is one good point to the policy, which is: providing for victims of terrorism, public officers and their families. That is but a single clause in the policy that is for the people, the rest gives the government an overwhelming and undeniable control over the “American citizens rights and the means to continue and expand its control. In the summary, The USA Patriot Act: A Sketch, by Charles Doyle, which can be located at; http://www.fas.org/irp/crs/RS21203.pdf ,a reader can clearly see that what the Bill of Rights gave us the Patriot Act takes away. Reading numerous articles and summaries of the act it is obvious that the American people should be concerned about just how much power the government is gaining, then giving to the military and agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The power the agencies have, have been a problem in the past as well. In 1975 the senate had selected a committee to oversee these agencies, primarily the FBI, which had been declared a vigilante organization. Focusing on suppressing groups from exercising their First Amendment rights, the FBI went with the theory that preventing the growth of a group would protect national security. The Patriot Act has basically nullified this committee, while granting the government agencies free reign. (Hentoff,N., December 17, 2001, Homeland Defense of the Constitution)
Since the bombing in Oklahoma City on April 15, 1995, the government has attempted to do more to prevent another terrorist attack, and it began with the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. This in simplest terms takes the right of Habeus away from those convicted of terrorism. To file for Habeas Corpus is to petition for an early release and can be done repeatedly. The attack on the Twin Towers on 9-11 unfortunately has shaken the countries defense structure to it’s very core allowing for some rather irrational and extreme actions to be taken. Such as the US Patriot Act, this act was adopted as a sunset policy (meaning it would expire in four years). This was to enable the individual agencies to adapt and ascertain the effectiveness (Fritscher, L., November. 5, 2007.USA Patriot Act: Pros and Cons).
This policy, which to congress an unprecedented 43 days to sign into law, was essentially formed to treamline communications between the agencies to provide easier means of investigation and surveillance. Other policies that are not so widely impacted have been passed as well. Policies such as, the National Defense Authorization Act, supplying these agencies the funding to continue. Preliminary research indicates a growing concern the government, and the agencies there of, are gaining too much power, and the aggressive use of this power is progressively eroding the individual American citizens’ privacy and civil liberties. How do the people know that the information gathered by various agencies is not being abused? What assurances can the government give that they won’t be? The security of a nation is a major concern to all Americans, but should there be a limit to what the government can do in the name of National Security.
Problems with abuse of privilege have been an issue in the past as well. During the cold war the foreign Intelligence Act was introduced and passed requiring agents to obtain a warrant from a judge before they could intercept private conversations. To gain a warrant government lawyers had to have proof that an individual was a threat. In 2008 this act was revised enabling the procedures to be overlooked. In fact, the law was bypassed by the Bush administration in 2001 after the terrorist attack on 9-11. Individuals and organizations alike are attempting to sue the government in regards to the ongoing surveillance program. The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), stated that the, “people cannot sue unless they can show their calls were monitored.) Alas, the government will not reveal whose messages were intercepted, therefore no proof (Scalliger,C. May 21, 2012). Obviously, the odds are greatly against those who oppose the current policies.
Individuals have come forward to attempt to inform the public of the actions of the government but to no avail. In 2007 an ex NSA employee reported that a program, codenamed Stellar Wind was already underway. Gathering information on millions of American citizens, the NSA gained access to more than 2.8 trillion billing records of domestic and international calls. All, without a warrant. At a later date Verizon joined the program multiplying the call rate five times over. Not only is the NSA and other agencies compiling dossiers on US citizens in these massive data bases, they also currently have the ability to eavesdrop in real-time. US citizens overseas are routinely intercepted when calling home to the states. No reason or warrant required (Hentoff, N., October 6, 2011).
The reality is that unwarranted wiretaps are only the beginning. Other forms of spying on the average citizen are already being used. The Fourth Amendment was written to protect our rights to privacy, yet our own government officials a sidestepping these laws. Though the word privacy never actually appears in the Constitution, it would be difficult to say the fact that something of the meaning of the word has long been established in legal traditions. The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word private as secluded from sight, presence or intrusion of others, to be confined to one person; personal (Mitrano, T., May 2012).
A primary responsibility of the United States government is to protect the citizens and its resources against the threat of terrorism, and Americans appreciate the security they have, and at times have sacrificed liberties to protect it (Walker, B. and Rsachke, G., nd). But, in spite of the measures taken to protect its people the government is also harming their basic fundamental rights that this country has always been known for. So are the citizens of the United States to give up democracy for a governmental dictatorship for the sake of this safety. What’s in store for the next generation?
Asian Tribune [Hallstavik], (June 5, 2012), US Patriot Act has denied Americans their freedom, Retrieved from, http://search.proquest.com/docview/1018399742? Doyle, C., (April 19, 2008), Patriot Act: “A Sketch,
Retrieved from, http://www.fas.org/irp/crs/RS21203.pdf. Hamilton, A., (1775), Bill of Rights.
Retrieved from, http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcripts.htm Hentoff, N., (December 17, 2001), Homeland Defense of the Constitution, The Washington Times, Retrieved from, http://scu.edu/ethics/publication/briefings/privacy.html Hentoff, N., (October 6, 2011), Lack of Privacy, becoming normal? The Fort Morgan Times,
Retrieved from, http://search.proquest.com/docview/919661310? Mitrano, T., (December 2008), Civil Privacy and National Security Legislation: A Three- Dimensional View, Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/civil-privacy-and- national-security-legislation-three.htm
Scalliger, C. (May 21, 2012), Knowing every bit about you. The New American issue 28, p. 10-16, Retrieved from, http://search.proquest.com/docview/1022039930?
Walker, B. & Raschke, G., (nd) Right to Privacy vs. National Security, National Security for the 21st Century, Retrieved from, http://www.library.gatech.edu/security/privacy.htm
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