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The Balancing Act Between Freedom & Security

1312 words - 6 pages

The USA Patriot Act came about after 9/11. The Act remains in use today with some slight modifications. On the other hand, FISA has been in use since the mid-1970s. Both Acts are highly controversial and are foreign to the average citizen. National security always requires a balancing act between freedom and security. As the saying goes, freedom is not free. This paper will describe the primary elements and / or components of the USA Patriot Act and FISA and research how the media has conveyed the main messages and elements of both acts. It will go on to discuss the media portrayal and general public perception of these acts. The paper will close with a discussion based on whether I believe the nation is more secure with these acts in place.
The USA Patriot Act
The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, otherwise known as the USA Patriot Act of 2001, President Bush signed into law October 26, 2001. The act is a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Not without controversy, the act allowed for surveillance of citizens and non-citizens alike all to detect and prevent terrorist activities within the borders of the United States. It extended powers to the Justice Department deemed necessary to combat what “had not existed before. The presence of terrorists within national borders along with the need to apprehend and prosecute them, hopefully before rather than after they acted” (Rouse, 2010). The broad reach of the act allowed for message interception, telephone line taps or any form of communication deemed relevant in the ongoing fight against terrorist activity in the United States.
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
Because of the amount of spying going on in the 1960s and 1970s, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. This act demanded that any foreign intelligence collection follow a given procedure to obtain a warrant for intelligence investigations. Wiretaps and warrants, even if the use is to obtain information on threats to national security, required proper authorization from the FISA court. “In order to get authorization, a significant purpose of the surveillance must be to gather foreign intelligence information — information about foreign spies, foreign terrorists, and other foreign threats — instead of evidence of a crime” (EFF, n.d.). For the FISA court to issue a warrant, the government must demonstrate the target of surveillance is a foreign target regardless if a crime has actually been committed. Those served with a FISA warrant also receive a gag order that only allows the target to discuss the subpoena with their lawyer.
The Media and the USA Patriot Act
Fear in a post-9/11 United States seemingly gripped every facet of American life. The media focused on providing a positive message it sent out daily especially when it came to topics involving the government...

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