The Constitutionality of the USA PATRIOT Act
One of America’s founding father said that “those who surrender freedom for security
will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” Benjamin Franklin’s belief is especially relevant
today, following the introduction a Big Brother-like Act of Congress, the USA Patriot Act. In
such a case, which employs draconian methods to stop terrorists, an important question must be
asked: Should we give up our constitutional rights to facilitate the prosecution of terrorists? I
believe that the USA Patriot Act is an ineffective tool to combat terrorism because it legalises a
series of unconstitutional provisions used to combat terrorism. The Patriot Act is not
constitutionally sound because it promotes surveillance programs, strengthens the use of
National Security Letters and violates the moral code set by the Constitution.
What is the Patriot Act?
The USA Patriot Act was signed into law on October 26th, 2001 as a result of the
September 11, 2001 attacks. The act’s title stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by
Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (“What Is The USA
Patriot”). The act consists of 10 titles, which share the common goal of preventing and
punishing future terrorist attacks. The implemented provisions range from providing victims
financial compensation to obtaining otherwise confidential information.
President Bush originally signed the act in 2001, and President Obama later renewed
important clauses that were set to “sunset”, or expire, in 2005 and once again in 2010
(Grabianowski, “How The Patriot Act Works”). The clauses that were going to sunset were the
ability to use roving wiretaps, to share foreign intelligence information and to issue National
Security Letters. Every other provision has been made a permanent addition to the American
Ever since its introduction, the Patriot Act was subject to heavy criticism. Congressmen
were given less than 48 hours to analyse the final wording of act. The act passed almost
unanimously in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. In fact, only one senator, Russ
Feingold of Wisconsin, voted against it (Grabianowski, “How The Patriot Act Works”). The act
was also written in response to the September 11 attacks, a moment when emotions were high
and the public opinion on terrorism was drastically changed. The Patriot Act offered comfort
against everything that was troubling the American people at the time.
Title II: Enhanced Surveillance Procedures
The second title of the Patriot Act, surnamed Enhanced Surveillance Procedures
enhances the ability for federal government workers to obtain information regarding terrorist
activity. This section of the Patriot Act legalises the use of roving wiretaps on people suspected
of terrorism. Previously, only a specific line could be intercepted by law-enforcement agencies.
A roving wiretap order, issued by...