Legality Of The Patriot Act A Theft Of Civil Liberties Or The Protection Of American Life

4600 words - 18 pages

On October 26th, 2001, just over a month following the devastating attacks on September 11th, in hasty and uncontested action, the United States Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) (ACLU: the USA PATRIOT Act). The Patriot Act, stretching 342 pages in length, was drafted in an attempt to protect the American people from the rising threat of terrorism which had taken root on Sept. 11th (ACLU: The USA PATRIOT Act). The passing of the Patriot Act has generated intense and heated debate among advocates for individual rights as well as those who believe in strict interpretation of the Constitution. Several prominent and prevalent groups, formed to protect the individual right of the American public, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and People For the American Way (PFAW) have expressed desire to reduce the broad scope of power granted to the government by the Patriot Act. Interest groups have lobbied Congress constantly in an effort to have their opinions regarding the Patriot Act recognized and the act amended. Their tireless efforts are balanced by the Justice Department of the United States, as well Federal prosecutors and agents lobbying to protect the Patriot Act and allow it to exist in its original form. The act has been widely contested and questioned in Congress since its introduction 2.5 years ago.The Patriot Act was approved just over a month after 9/11, with thoughts and emotions concerning the horrific events still fresh in the minds of many. In fact, the legislation was introduced and passed through Congress less than a week following the attacks. This angered many as it took advantage of the vulnerability felt by many after the event and their desire to feel safe and secure under the new situation. Others felt these quick actions were necessary to protect the American public from future attacks which could occur in the days following 9/11. Many of the Patriots Act's provisions with regard to electronic surveillance had been proposed prior to 9/11 and quickly dismissed and rejected. In the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush Administration reintroduced the bill and Attorney General John Ashcroft gave Congress one week to approve the bill without any changes (The USA PATRIOT Act). Some changes were indeed made, but not to the extent that would have been acceptable, as the Attorney General foretold of imminent future attacks and warned Congress that they would be blamed for future attacks if there was additional delay (The USA PATRIOT Act). John Podesta, former White House Chief of Staff from 1998-2000, wrote "The events of September 11 convinced ... overwhelming majorities in Congress that law enforcement and national security officials need new legal tools to fight terrorism. But we should not forget what gave rise to the original opposition - many aspects of the bill increase the opportunity for law enforcement and the...

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