Privacy and Safety: The battle between terrorism and the constitution.
Since the enactment of 107 P.L. 56, otherwise known as the “Patriot Act,” there has been an ongoing battle between the privacy citizens enjoy and the safety Americans seek in their day-to-day lives. Ever since 9/11, law-enforcement agencies have been under intense pressure to ensure the safety and security of Americans. In order to achieve this idea of safety Congress passed the Patriot Act that purported to grant new tools and rules by which law enforcement could catch terrorists. In the decade following this legislation, questions surrounded how these new tools and regulations affected the privacy of Americans.
More recently, the Guardian published a report detailing how the National Security Agency (“NSA”) has been secretly collecting the telephone records of millions of United States citizens (Greenwald). There are several disturbing factors regarding the recent activities of the NSA. The most egregious constitutional breach however, is that those targeted by the NSA no longer had to be suspected of any crime, let alone be suspected of being a terrorist, to fall under the purview of the NSA’s data collection efforts. (Greenwald) This paper will analyze how the sacrifice of privacy in the name of terrorism has ultimately gone too far and accomplished very little. This paper will also discuss how the government has abused the constitutional rights of Americans in attempting to secure itself from terrorism, and how this abuse threatens Americans going forward.
II. The Patriot Act: The beginning of the end of privacy in the United States.
Initially the Justice Department was resistant to releasing information regarding the impact that Patriot Act had on the war on terrorism (Kranich). Finally, on May 13, 2003 the Justice Department released a statement, which “confirmed that [they] had used many of these anti-terrorism powers to pursue defendants for crimes unrelated to terrorism” (Kranich). Even with this initial disclosure, law enforcement officials were at least using their newly enumerated powers in the Patriot Act to fight crime. The Patriot Act was passed a mere 6 weeks after the 9/11 attacks, and was clearly the government’s response to one of the most horrific terrorist attack on U.S Soil (American Civil Liberties Union). While it is understandable why many in Congress and their constituents would desire increased security, it is clear in hindsight how the Patriot Act may have overstepped certain constitutional guarantees.
The impact of the Patriot Act is a clear example of legislation being sound in theory yet poor in execution. No one could question the need to take measures to advance the safety and security of the United States, especially in light of the aftermath of 9/11. With Congress passing the Patriot act a mere 6 weeks after the attacks, it is hard to imagine a thorough debate and examination took place. It is unclear whether all...