In a post-September 11th America, it is not uncommon for the mentioning of the word “terrorist” to spark any number of emotions in its citizens. In response to activities such as the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, as well as the 2001 anthrax scares, Congress proposed the USA PATRIOT Act. Supporters of the Act cite the importance and immeasurable need for greater protection in terms of national security, which is the government’s responsibility first and foremost to protect its citizens from enemies foreign and domestic. However, for every proponent there is an equally passionate opponent who partially believe not only does the Act impede on civil liberties and individual rights but was an opportunistic ploy to grant excess power to the government in the wake of September 11th empathy.
USA PATRIOT is what is referred to as a “backronym”, or a title from which is construed from a pre-existing word. The phrase itself stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, 2014). While the goals and provisions outlined in the original and supplemental Act documents aim to accomplish what the title implies, there are still an increasing number of opponents to its contents. The Act of Congress, of which was originally signed in to law by former President George W. Bush in 2001, has been at the focus of political, media, and private scrutiny since its conception. While its proponents argue the need for government immersion to combat the probability of future and/or current terrorist activity and nation security concerns, adversaries question the scale of impedance on individual civil liberties. Specific subjects of controversy being addressed include the use of surveillance and wiretapping, reasonable expectations of privacy, and means of information sharing. The following paragraphs delve into a brief synopsis of controversial issues surrounding the USA PATRIOT Act.
The issue of surveillance practices has been a cause of concern since the Acts establishment. Title II of the act entitled “Enhanced Surveillance Procedures” which encompasses Section 201 through Section 225 (USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, 2001) is devoted specifically to outlining expanded government powers. Since 2001 certain controversial statutes were removed or changed such as the “requirement that the government prove a surveillance target under FISA is a non-U.S. citizen and agent of a foreign power” (Justice). It is stated in several resources that part of the initial discourse of surveillance powers was due to a general misunderstanding in the meaning.
The surveillance portion of the USA PATRIOT Act seemingly provided additional government power in situations crucial to national security; it allowed for techniques to find, track, and gather information on suspected terrorists and terrorist activity especially on U.S. soil. Also expanded upon were wiretapping abilities...