The Patriot Act: A Violation of Civil Liberties

The attacks at the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 has urged the United States to pass a law that would combat terrorism. The whole world was shocked with the turn of events and every nation was sympathetic to the United States and many supported its anti-terrorism campaign. The US acted swiftly to address terrorism but they may have overreacted. The law that would help combat terrorism is known as the USA Patriot Act. It has however been met with a lot of controversy since it has become a channel for human rights violations.

On October 26, 2001, just more than a month after the Sept. 11 attacks, the USA Patriot Act was made a law. It was not long before the media reported the cases of abuse resulting from the new law. The media reported cases how terrorist suspects whose names have appeared in a watch list were detained even in the absence of concrete evidence linking them with terrorist activity. The detainees were not informed of what they were charged of and they were not allowed to contact their lawyers.

Attorneys have argued that the basic human rights of the detainees were abused as they were subject to arbitrary detention, were denied access to a lawyer, and were not subjected to the normal due process and their right of speech were violated as well (Ferrell, 2004, p. 289-290). Another loophole of the act is that it was passed not because of merit but because of “emotional voting” since the members of the Congress are still gripped by fear as the incidents of the anthrax and September 11 attacks are still fresh. A Homeland Security Committee member even noted that it was the worst act that was passed under US legislation.

An observer in Congress estimated that less than 5 percent of the Congressional members who voted for the act did not even read it. The act has not yet been printed but the votes have already been cast. According to Rand Beers, the act made the public less secure. He also said that many things are not being done (Ferrell, 2004, p. 290). Numerous communities in the US have expressed condemnation with the Patriot Act since it has only helped with the violation of the civil liberties of people. Local governments which include large cities and even small communities have resisted compliance with this federal law.

These include Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and San Francisco as well as Dillon, Montana, Reading, Pennsylvania, Takoma Park, Maryland, and Ithaca New York. Numerous communities have also passed anti-Patriot Act resolutions (Ferrell, 2004, p. 290). The USA Patriot Act has become a channel for the violation of a person’s basic civil liberties. Those who were gravely affected were mostly Muslims or people from Middle Eastern descents. It gave the military and other law enforcers the power to act beyond their means.

They are allowed to detain anyone who is suspected to be connected with terrorists even without concrete evidence, which violates the due process of law. Detainees were also deprived of their basic rights. It would seem that the Patriot Act was enacted because of emotions and not because of sound judgement since votes for it have already been cast even as it is not put in writing. Also, many of those communities and legislators who once supported the act are now against it.

References

Ferrell, J. (2004). Cultural Criminology Unleashed. Routledge Cavendish.