Patriot Act is also commonly known as the USA patriot Act. It is a controversial act of the parliament that became a law of the United States in 26th October 2001 after George Bush the president appended his signature. USA PATRIOT ACT is an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act. The act was in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorism attacks that were targeted at the US pentagon and the World Trade Centre (WTO).
These attacks led to the US congress to enact anti terrorism bills which finally came to be known as the Anti Terrorism Act of 2001. This is a complex law that incorporates many provisions for example it addresses the issue of financing terrorism, interception of phones and emails to control terrorism and detention and deportation of immigrants linked with acts of terrorism. This research paper will keenly focus on the Act itself and it will conduct on intensive and extensive research to know the issues that it addresses. It will also define the term terrorism as it is defined by various institutions and authors.
Terrorism could be defined to as the systematic use of threats as a method of achieving ones objectives. It is a course of action that is taken by either rebel group within a country or by one country against the other like in the case of Afghanistan and Iraq against US. Its objective is to instill fear in people so that their (Terrorists) selfish demands would be met for example like the demands that are issued by the Al Qaeda network which is believed to be headed by the most wanted person in America Osama Bin Laden of US to stop giving any form of assistance to Israel.
Terrorism also includes unlawful acts of war and violence. According to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), terrorism could be termed as use of violence or force against another person with intent to intimidate or force obedience to a particular course of action. As mentioned here above, terrorism could be classified into two categories: domestic and international.
This kind of violence is perpetrated by a group within the US without any directions from outside while international terrorism could be defined to as domestic terrorism whereas international terrorism could be defined to as dangerous acts of violence that are deemed to be a violation of the US criminal laws whose main goal is to coerce or intimidate the population or the government to influence a certain policy for example most terrorists often use bomb threats, death threats to the kidnapped individuals or even assassination of high profiled figures in the government.
This is why the US patriot act was formed so as to address all these issues that are associated or linked with terrorism and make United States a better and safer place to live in. It was passed in response to the September 11th attacks which were leveled to the US population by terrorist groups. In fact it took only forty five days to hatch and nurture the Patriot Act. This Act proved not to be thorough and conclusive and became subject to amendments because it had many flaws that needed to be readdressed.
The Act aimed at suppressing all acts of aggression or dissent in the United States of America and that was why the country launched an attack against immigrants originating from South Asian countries, Muslims and Arabs as they were believed to pose threats to the Americans. With the powers given by the act, a lot of people were arrested after the September 11th, 2001 attacks but it is only those that were believed to be linked to terrorism were apprehended.
The act added power to the law enforcers for example it gave them powers to intercept phone calls, emails and any other communication made via the internet. It also allowed all financial, medical and any other records that could be of importance in the fight against terrorism. Patriot Act also authorized the secretary of the treasury to regulate and monitor all financial transactions conducted by suspected individuals on understanding that those transactions could be geared towards financing acts of terrorism. (Rackow 1655)
Thorough the Patriot Act, the immigration department laws of the United States were strengthened by giving it the mandate to arrest and deport any individual immigrant connected or involved in the acts of terrorism against Americans. The Act on understanding that terrorism is not only perpetrated by groups or countries outside America, it expanded its definition of terrorism to encompass even domestic terrorism. Therefore it gave powers to the local law enforcers the mandate to investigate, track and arrest the local people suspected of perpetrating terrorism acts.
Also, the federal investigation bureau’s technical support centre is to be funded and it should be given any military assistance it may require if there is need and be provided with weapons of mass destruction if they are requested by the Attorney General of the United States. It addresses how electronic anti terrorism moves should be conducted. It is also in this chapter that it is generally acknowledged that Muslim Americans, Arab American and Americans who are from Asia are just like any other American citizens and they play a vital role in the development of the country.
For this reason any acts of discrimination directed towards them were condemned but this was after the original provision elicited a nation wide outcry due to discrimination of these people. This issue was addressed due to the misconception that arose after the attack that these groups were terrorists and therefore they were harassed by police without any reason.
This forced them to change their cultural and religious ways of life for example Arab Muslims changed their mode of dressing to avoid being targeted by the law enforcers. Rackow 1658-61) In the same chapter on section 106, the presidential authority is addressed. The president of the United States is empowered by the Act to direct the confiscation of properties and assets of any foreign country, organization or person who have been established by the investigations to have been involved or participated in any way towards attacks on the United States of America. Title II of the patriotic Act deals with surveillance procedures and addresses all forms of surveillance conducted in response to terrorism.
It is here that most of the opposition against this Act lies. It allowed the foreign intelligence department to gather any information that could help in the tracking of terrorists be acquired whether from the United States or from outside its boundaries. Under this title, surveillance of wire networks were expanded so as to encompass information routing to enable packets of switched networks to be screened. Here the judges were also given the mandate to allow this surveillance to be conducted whenever need arose.
The FBI’s apart from doing wire taps or interceptions, they were to access and listen to voicemails using search warrants. Communication organizations were also allowed to disclose communications that may have been made by terrorists. The FBI’s were also given powers to monitor internet communication so that emails sent by terrorists could be intercepted and action taken before it is too late. This was not done with intentions of disclosing any private information but the main objective was to control terrorists who might be involved in such acts. Rackow 1662)
The Act was passed in a time when the United States was in desperate need of such a move and as the saying goes; desperate times call for desperate measures. It became a law within the first forty five days. It passed through the two congress houses with a landslide and without any division between the Republicans and Democrats. Despite its good perceived objectives and strong support it got from the congressmen, it elicited some criticisms from different groups for interference with the civil liberties of the citizens.
To be specific these criticisms have been directed on the provision that allows immigrants thought to be linked to terrorism be arrested and deported. The search laws have also been criticized where officers entrusted with the law enforcement search homes and business premises without seeking for permission from the owner. They could also conduct these searches without the knowledge of the occupant and this is a total breach of the privacy rights. (Jaeger P. T. and Burnett. G. 467-469)
Another provision of the Act that has been widely criticized is that one which allows the interception of internet communications such as emails and the screening of phone calls made by individuals who are suspected to have links with terrorism. This is a denial to the confidentiality and privacy rights. Through the Patriot Act, law enforcers are also given free access to people’s financial and business records so that they would be perused to see whether one could have been financing terrorist activities or not.
What angers these people most is the fact that the laws enforcers do not even look for court orders to allow them to conduct their investigations and searches so, most of these searches are impromptu and are conducted in a manner similar or close to the way terrorists conduct their businesses. Due to these complains, several amendments have been made by the federal courts and it was agreed that some of these clauses were unconstitutional and for that reason they needed to be revised. The US Patriot Act is structured and arranged using titles and sub titles.
Title one of the patriot act deals with enhancement of domestic security against terrorism. This one consists of six sections and addresses how terrorism can effectively be controlled for example by increasing the funding meant to counter terrorism acts. Under title three the issue of money laundering is addressed. It is geared toward controlling, prevent and prosecute and those that are involved in money laundering as well as financing terrorism. According to the federal law, money laundering is defined as the transfer or flow of cash with an aim of funding terrorism.
The federal agencies achieve their end through forfeiture, criminal sanctions and regulations. This act authorizes the secretary of the treasury to monitor any foreign relations with its financial institutions. (Rackow 1667) Documents and transactions files from regions believed to be linked with terrorism are to be securely stored. If any money transaction according to this act is established to have terrorism acts, the said beneficiary of this money is to forfeit it. Importation of ammunitions and fire arms contrary to the law are also addressed and the penalties for the same are clearly defined.