Forty-five days after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Congress passed the US PATRIOT Act, also known as the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism” Act, or more simply, the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act was created with the noble intention of finding and prosecuting international terrorists operating on American soil; however, the unfortunate consequences of the Act have been drastic.
Many of the Patriot Act’s provisions are in clear violation of the U.S. Constitution—a document drafted by wise men like Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington in order to protect American rights and freedoms. The Patriot Act encroaches on sacred First Amendment rights, which protect free speech and expression, and Fourth Amendment rights, which protect citizens against “unwarranted search and seizure”. The Patriot Act authorizes unethical and unconstitutional surveillance of American citizens with a negligible improvement in national security.
Free speech, free thinking, and a free American lifestyle can’t survive in the climate of distrust and constant fear created by the Patriot Act. The great American patriot Robert F. Kennedy once said in his famous “Day of Affirmation Address” that the first and most critical element of “individual liberty is the freedom of speech; the right to express and communicate ideas, to set oneself apart from the dumb beasts of field and forest ” (Kennedy, 1966).
Modern American politicians and lawmakers, it seems, have lost sight of the important ideals that Kennedy spoke about and upon which this country was founded—ideals like civil rights, personal freedom, and the right to privacy. Congress approved the Patriot Act by an overwhelming margin shortly after the infamous terrorist acts. The House voted 357-66 in favor of the measure, while the Senate voted 98-1 with only Sen.
Russ Feingold, D-Wis. , dissenting. President Bush signed the behemoth bill into law on Oct. 26, 2001 (Wikipedia, n. d). The massive law, 342 pages long, amends at least 15 separate federal laws, including the Foreign Intelligence SurveillanceAct of 1978, the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
The Patriot Act violates several of the ten original amendments known as the Bill of Rights. Amendment I states that congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The US Patriot Act states freedom of association to assist terror investigation, the government may monitor religious and political institutions without suspecting criminal activity and the government may prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they tell anyone the government subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation (Davis, updated 2008).
Amendment IV states that the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. The US Patriot Act states that freedom from unreasonable searches: The government may search and seize Americans’ papers and effects without probable cause to assist terror investigation Under Patriot Act provisions, law enforcement can use NSLs when investigating U. S. citizens, even when law enforcement does not think the individual under investigation has committed a crime (University, n. d. ).
Amendment VI states the in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
The US Patriot Act states right to a speedy and public trial: The government may jail Americans indefinitely without a trial. Americans may be jailed without being charged or being able to confront witnesses against them. US citizens (labeled “unlawful combatants”) have been held incommunicado and refused attorneys. The government may monitor conversations between attorneys and clients in federal prisons and deny lawyers to Americans accused of crimes (Van Bergen, 2002).
In conclusion, The Patriot Act does not just violate the Constitution, but re p resents the loss of our individual liberties by violating our freedom of speech, information, and expression as stated in the First Amendment, the protection from search and seizure guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment, and the right to a speedy and public trial as stated in the Sixth Amendment. Most serious is that it threatens democracy and gives the FBI uncontrolled power to gain personal information without adequate charges. For all of these reasons we should realize our liberties and fight for them. References Davis, R. (updated 2008, August 10).
USA PATRIOT Act Violates First Amendment. Retrieved from http://www. thehilltoponline. com/nation-world/usa-patriot-act-violates-first-amendment-1. 472045#. UaMU5py9Ju8. Kennedy, R. (1966, June 06). Day of Affirmation. Day of Affirmation. South Afirca. University, C. (n. d. ). Fourth Amendment. Retrieved from http://www. law. cornell. edu/wex/fourth_amendment. Van Bergen, J. (2002). Repeal the US Patriot Act. Retrieved from http://www. ratical. org/ratville/CAH/repealUSAPA. html. Wikipedia. (n. d). Patriot Act. Retrieved from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Patriot_Act.