Under Section 213 of the Patriot Act, the issuing of a search warrant can be delayed so that the search can be executed without the person’s knowledge. This search warrant can happen because of something that was found in this person’s e-mail. The government does not even have to tell anyone if this has happened. This is a clear violation of the U. S. Constitution. After the Patriot Act had been in law for several years, Congress decided to look into the many provisions given by the USA Patriot Act. The Senate Judiciary Committee questioned former U.
S. Representative Bob Barr about the Patriot Act. Bob Barr, who had voted for the Patriot Act when it was pushed through the House, was now saying that it was being used for other things (Carlson 1). He told the Committee “Little did I, or many of my colleagues, know [the act] would shortly be used in contexts other than terrorism and in conjunction with a wide array of other, privacy-invasive programs and activities” (Carlson 1). Barr, once a supporter of the Patriot Act, became an opponent because of the way the Patriot Act affects people.
Section 505 of the Patriot Act allowed for the use of a national security letter, or NSL for short, which was a subpoena to obtain financial records along with telephone and e-mail records (Carlson 1). The NSL’s that were issued did not require probable cause nor any judicial review. This is why Bob Barr was concerned. There were not any restrictions in place to stop someone from misusing the Patriot Act. According to the number of NSL’s in the NSL tracking database, maintained by the FBI’s Office of the General Council, there were more than “… 47,000, up from 39,000 in 2003; more than half of the requests in 2004-2005 targeted U.S. citizens” (Audit 20). If this is true, than around 28,500 NSL requests targeted at U. S. citizens.
This means that 28,500 citizens participated in terrorist activity. This is hard to believe. In the 2004 documentary film, Fahrenheit 9/11, the director, Michael Moore, discusses throughout the film about the horrors of the Patriot Act. He interviews Congressman Jim McDermott, who was telling Michael Moore about how once the Patriot Act was proposed, Congress felt that it was the perfect opportunity to enact some of these controversial policies that they had been wanting to for a while (Fahrenheit 9/11).
He also when on to allege that no Senator had read the bill (Fahrenheit 9/11). I was amazed to hear a Congressman admit that no Senator had even read the bill. Michael Moore also interviewed Congressman John Conyers Jr. He was quoted as saying, “”We don’t really read most of the bills. Do you know what that would entail if we read every bill that we passed? ” (Fahrenheit 9/11). He then went on to answer this question by stating, “it would slow down the legislative process” (Fahrenheit 9/11). If no one had read the Patriot Act, then that could explain why it is so obviously illegal.
No one knew that it was blatantly illegal because no one had actually read the whole thing before enacting it into law. In 2004, an article appeared in Congressional Digest, where former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge discussed how the new counterterrorism initiatives, given by the Patriot Act, had progressed since the attacks. Some of the things said included that the government “… identified and disrupted over 150 terrorist threats and cells” (267) and “… nearly two-thirds of al Qaeda’s known senior leadership has been captured or killed…
” (267) Also it said “… more than 3,000 operatives have been incapacitated” (267), and that “three hundred and sixty-one individuals have been criminally charged in the United States in terrorism investigations” (267). This article found ways to counter all the negative effects that the Patriot Act had been receiving from Americans. How do we know that this is the truth when all it could well be is just something made up to appease the crowds? I would hope that the government is telling us the truth, but there is no real way to know.
Not all of the Patriot Act is bad, however. When it came time for the act to be renewed in 2006, many people wanted some of the provisions to be kept. Bob Beckel, a columnist in the USA Today, said, “I could live with a renewed Patriot Act as long as intelligence agencies are still made to share information. The horrors of 9/11 may have been prevented if the government, particularly FBI and CIA, had been working together” (Beckel 13a). A renewed Patriot Act with no violation of freedoms could be a very useful tool in preventing terrorism.
Cal Thomas, Bob Beckel’s longtime friend and a conservative columnist, said when asked by Bob about the fears of rising government power, “we have the right to monitor it, to ask lawmakers to keep a watchful eye and while continuing to hit terrorists before they hit us. This is not beanbag; it is war. Like other wars, sacrifices must be made for the greater good. The Patriot Act continues in that tradition — protecting rights while hunting the barbarians” (Thomas 13a). While some sacrifices need to be made for the greater good, not at all should be sacrifices that give up our freedoms.
This act should affect terrorists more than it should affect U. S. citizens. If the USA Patriot Act does not undermine the main freedoms that are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, then I am open to hearing about a revised Patriot Act designed to prevent terrorism. If the Patriot Act could become this, then there would not be a problem at all, but for now the USA Patriot Act is still illegal. It clearly violates the U. S. Constitution, and invades e-mail privacy along with many more civil liberties. The Patriot Act violates the principles that this country is based upon.
Maybe, one day, we will have a law that can protect our freedoms while preventing terrorism. While this may be a difficult task to accomplish anytime soon, I believe that it can be accomplished through dedication and with our civil liberties in mind. If the Patriot Act is allowed to stay legal, it may be the start down a path this country cannot afford to take.
Works Cited Anonymous. “Audit: FBI Misused USA Patriot Act. ” American Libraries 38. 4 (Apr. 2007): 20 21. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Georgia State University Library, Atlanta, GA. 11 Feb. 2009 ;http://ezproxy. gsu. edu ;. Anonymous.
“Judge Strikes Down FBI Use of NSLs. ” Information Management Journal 41. 6 (Nov. 2007): 8-8. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Georgia State University Library, Atlanta, GA. 4 Feb. 2009 ;http://ezproxy. gsu. edu ;. Anonymous. “Using the PATRIOT Act to Fight Terrorism. ” Congressional Digest 83. 9 (Nov. 2004): 266-268. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Georgia State University Library, Atlanta, GA. 18Mar. 2009 ;http://ezproxy. gsu. edu ;. Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel. “The Patriot Act’s worth keeping (if we rein it in … ” USA Today (n. d. ):13a. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Georgia State University Library, Atlanta, GA.
1 Apr. 2009 ;http://ezproxy. gsu. edu ;. Carlson, Caron. “Congress looks at Patriot Act. ” eWeek 20. 47 (24 Nov. 2003): 23-23. Vocational and Career Collection. EBSCO. Georgia State University Library, Atlanta, GA. 25 Mar. 2009 ;http://ezproxy. gsu. edu;. Fahrenheit 9/11. Dir. Michael Moore. Perf. Michael Moore and George W. Bush. DVD. Sony, 2004. Swartz, Nikki. “Patriot Act Provision Ruled Unconstitutional. ” Information Management Journal 38. 6 (Nov. 2004): 6-6. Library, Information Science ; Technology Abstracts. EBSCO. Georgia State University Library, Atlanta, GA. 25 Mar. 2009 ;http://ezproxy. gsu. edu ;.