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The Patriot Act And The First Amendment

1849 words - 7 pages

The foundations for personal freedom and the mark of an open society is defined in the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly, and petition. Shortly after the September 11th attacks the Patriot Act was passed in an attempt to secure the nation's safety. This set of new laws has collided with the rights of the citizens. The Patriot Act has been the center of a rigorous controversy around whether or not it violates the Constitution including the First Amendment. One specific aspect of the Patriot Act that collides with the First Amendment is how it eases the ability for the government to conceal information. This secrecy that the Patriot Act gives the government is slowly chipping away at the constitution, specifically at the First Amendment.BACKGROUNDThe Patriot Act looms around the balance between national security and individual liberty. David L. Hudson Jr. (n.d), a First Amendment research attorney illustrates that supporters believe that "the Patriot Act is responsible for preventing further catastrophes." Senator Mitch McConnell will go as far to say that the Patriot Act is "the biggest hero to emerge from the hearings before the 9/11 Commission…" (Hudson, n.d.). George W. Bush also believes that the Patriot Act helped "break up terror cells in Ohio, New York, Oregon, and Virginia" (Hudson, n.d.). Those who are against the Patriot Act "counter that the Patriot Act represents the loss of individual liberty…" (Hudson, n.d.). Robert Levy of the Cato Institute vigorously describes the Patriot Act as a "looming sacrifice of civil liberties at the altar of national security" (Hudson, n.d.).Congress overwhelmingly passed the Patriot Act after the terrorist attacks. This massive law amends several federal laws in order to ease the gathering of intelligence and surveillance on suspected terrorists and groups. The act permits the use of wiretaps without sufficient warrants, it redefines domestic terrorism, and it adds new terrorist crimes. As time progressed the Patriot Act began to receive heavy flack. John Whitehead, founder of the Rutherford Institute has accessed that the Patriot Act "violates at least six of the ten original amendments known as the Bill of Rights" (Hudson, n.d.). Hudson (n.d) points out that some "contend that the act also intrudes deeply on the fundamental First Amendment rights."In the case of Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor v Ashcroft (2003) the argument was that Section 215 of the Patriot Act violated the First Amendment. Section 215 discloses:No person shall disclose to any other person (other than those persons necessary to produce the tangible things…) that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has sought or obtained tangible things…" (Hudson, n.d.)Hudson explains that this would prevent, for example a library from "notifying its patrons that the government has requested information from it under Section 215." The plaintiff in the Ann Arbor case...

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