This is a presentation for local citizens’ rights group highlighting the threats to citizens’ right of privacy which are capable of being abused by police through loosened restrictions under the pretext of combating terrorism. The people of America including immigrants are under constant threat of their privacy being abused by being asked to provide records and keep silent about it without raising an issue in any quarters. They can be detained and deported out of the country without the due process of law if they are immigrants.
Their people of American have to risk their e mails, voice mails and telephone conversations being monitored thus rendering their rights under First and Fourth amendments to jeopardy in the name of terrorism. The American Government therefore needs to restrict te powers granted to the police. Abuse of people’s right to privacy Introduction The US Government passed its USAPATRIOT Act 2001 (Using and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001) immediately after 9/11.
The sunset provision made it enforceable from December 31,2005 onwards. It broadens the authority of U. S. law enforcement agencies for the purpose of countering terrorism. Accordingly, the law enforcement agencies can intercept or search telephone and e mail communications, medical, financial, and other records. The act has brought within its ambit domestic terrorism as well enabling the enforcement agencies to lay their hands on a number of activities of the people. The Act has been criticized for its loosened restrictions on police power leading violation of civil liberties.
Police now can detain immigrants indefinitely, conduct search on the home or business without the knowledge or consent of the occupant besides accessing records relating to business, finance, and library. Section 215 of the Patriot Act is highly abusive since this provision which empowers enforcement agencies to demand papers, files, and personal belongings and also makes it compulsory for the individuals not to disclose that such records and things are being demanded.
This section restricts free speech and violates individual rights. (Hanson and Carver) Besides in the name of detention, about 1200 people were detained after 9/11 attack and none of them was convicted, though about 800 of them were deported for different reasons of immigration offences. Mass round ups of the citizens are not the way to counter terrorism but international and interagency sharing of data can help. (Martens 2005) Further, the Act affects democratic rights in three different directions.
One, it seeks to affect first amendment rights of freedom of speech and political association by likening them to domestic terrorism and deny non citizens to enter into politics. Two, the act lowers the already diminished privacy rights by enabling law enforcement agencies with surveillance powers. Three, due process rights are denied to non citizens by detaining and deporting them on the grounds of political activities, without due process of law. (Chang 2002)
The Act allows roving wiretap to follow a person wherever he visits and including the computer of his neighbor, a library computer, his home or office computer or any phone communications he may be engaged in. This is flagrant violation of fourth amendment prohibiting unreasonable searches. As against the earlier requirement of obtaining warrants from te respective jurisdiction, the Patriot Act facilitates national search warrants. It also affects the provisions of Electronics Communications Privacy Act by enabling nationwide search warrants for voice mail and e-mail verification.
(Golden 2004) Conclusion The unbridled liberty given to law enforcement authorities has not achieved much in combating terrorism envisaged by Patriot Act enacted in haste and with certain well founded fears in the heat of the moment. Now that four years have passed, the Act has not achieved much except unduly harassing the innocent citizens knowingly or unknowingly by the law enforcement agencies. Let these laws continue but without restrictions on the freedom of speech and with provisions of due process in the matters of searches, and detentions.
References Chang Nancy 2002 “Silencing the Political Dissent” p 44 Center for Constitutional Rights. Golden Roger 2004 “What Price Security” The USA Patriot Act and America’s Balance between Freedom and Security”. The Homeland Security Papers. Hansen Jim and Carver Joe 2005-2006 “West Coast Search & Detention Affirmative Handbook” Maertens Tom 2005 “Patriot Act Ineffectively and Needlessly Tosses Aside Constitutional Protections” St. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, Accessed June 23, 2008<www. commondreams. org/views04/0819-08. htm> .