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The Patriot Act And American Libraries

749 words - 3 pages

On September 11, 2001, Americans across the country watched in horror as events unfolded in New York City, Washington D.C., and a farm field in Pennsylvania. Islamic terrorists, associated with Al-Qaeda, had successfully carried out attacks on United States targets. They were allegedly acting in retaliation for America’s support of Israel, involvement in the Persian Gulf War and continued military presence in the Middle East. (history.com) News coverage of the events continued for days, but little thought was given to the long-term consequences the actions of this group of men would have on the lives of Americans. Almost immediately, our government enacted laws intended to provide for the safety and security of this country and its people. One of those laws, titled Uniting and Strengthening America By Providing Appropriate Tools Required To Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA Patriot Act) was passed in October 2001. On the surface, the Patriot Act appears to address issues associated with maintaining the safety and security of the United States. There are, however, provisions of this law that affect every American in ways that would not have been imaginable prior to September 11, 2001. Thankfully, there are groups of individuals who have dedicated themselves to challenging these provisions and protecting the right of privacy and intellectual freedom.
Prior to September 11, 2001, there were laws already in existence that allowed the government to monitor the activities of American citizens. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed in 1978, was initially enacted to establish procedures for physical and electronic surveillance and collection of foreign intelligence information (it.ojp.gov). This law created a court with the power to authorize FBI agents to track an individual’s communication on a variety of devices and to track communications on devices such as a public library computer. This law raised serious questions about Fourth Amendment search and seizure concerns (Rubin 2010). After the events of September 11, 2001 Congress moved quickly to enact The Patriot Act. Section 215, often referred to as the “library provision,” of this act extends the authority of the FBI to expand their searches to include items such as books, circulation records, or electronic records of...

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