Terrorisms and the United States Patriot Act

The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act is an Act of congress that became law on 26th October, 2007 after the assent by the United States president, George Bush (Public Law 107-56). The Act is also known as the United States of America PATRIOT Act or the Patriot Act. The Act was approved forty three days after the United States attack of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center Complex, and the Pentagon. It considerably extended the power of United States law enforcers in combating terrorism within the United States as well as overseas.

The Act was characterized by an increase in capacity of law enforcers to investigate electronic mail and telephone communications as well as financial, medical and relevant records; reduced restriction on external intelligence assembling within the United States; increased the Secretary of the Treasury’s power to control financial dealings especially those entailing entities and persons; and improved the prudence of immigration agencies and law enforcement in deporting and detaining immigrants alleged to be associated with terrorism.

In addition, the Patriot Act broadened the meaning of terrorism to incorporate “domestic terrorism” such that the number of actions to which the powers of the Act could apply expanded. The Act was passed unanimously in the United States Congress. Pointing to this, its inception invited several controversies. The Act weakened the safeguarding of civil liberties.

Specifically, the Act allows indefinite locking up of immigrants; searches of premise without owners consent; authorization of Federal Investigation Bureau to search emails, telephones, and financial accounts without court warrant; and increased access to government records by law enforcers. Furthermore, numerous legal challenges have come up against the patriot act to the extent that the Federal courts have ruled out some of the Act’s provisions.

The Patriot Act changed the law concerning the intelligence surveillance on foreign ground like Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which was enacted in 1978 and Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was passed after the discovery of abuses of domestic spying by the intelligence agencies, National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Central Intelligence Agency (Swires, 2004).

FISA guides the intelligence agencies in capturing communications and conducting wire tapping so as to collect foreign information for intelligence; the Act is not applicable to United States citizens but targets the dealings of external nationals and powers. Electronic Communications Privacy Act was a development of the Wiretap statute better known as Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets. The statute resulted due to pressure from churches and after the discovery of an amendment that prohibited wire tapping without a warrant.

Then, Federal Bureau of Investigation used a program that investigated and distracted rebel political associations in the United States. It targeted associations that had radical politicians like those with avowed objectives of seizing the United States government, violent groups as well as civil rights associations. The surveillance was noted as illegal (Taylor, 2002). In the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, there was the acceptance that the wire tapping was being done without legal permission in which case they were used in listening to personal conversation of The United States citizens without their knowledge.

The conversations are used in court as evidence in court. However, in protecting the integrity of the court while maintaining respecting privacy of the US citizens, the Act has a provision to guide the interception of conversation as well as wire tapping. Hence, the Act stipulates that these actions should be performed after acquiring a warrant in which case failure to acquire authorization is penalized. The Patriot Act was viewed as objectionable.

Some aspects that were in question included the wire tapping, the alteration to the law of search and seizure, the increased authority of FISA, as well as the alteration to detention (Sensenbrenner, & John Conyers, 2002). On July 31st, the Protecting the Rights of Individuals Act in an attempt to alter the Patriot Act proposed changes to FISA elements. Among the changes included the “sneak and peek” as well as the wiretap components. This Protecting the Rights of Individuals Act further proposed the restoration of the FISA surveillance which was limited to foreign organizations as contrasted to the Patriot Act.

In the mean time, the meaning of terrorism was narrowed. The Patriot Act gave provisions that got rid of the “wall” upsetting the sharing of information from foreign intelligence with domestic enforcers as well as wire tapping, and the increased capabilities of the Terrorism Task force. The Act was credited with the several activities that thwarted terrorist attempts and dismantled terrorist organizations such as in Buffalo, Seattle, Detroit and Portland.

In addition, two hundred and fifty five criminal charges have been charged with one hundred thirty two individuals being convicted or pleading guilty. Moreover, more than three thousand terrorist suspects have been arrested in many countries with some having a different fate (Ashcroft, 2003). Some of the suspects include Sami Amin Al-Arian and some other individuals who were charged in fifty accounts; one of the cases includes the use of “Islamic think tank” to channel finances to the associations such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Ashcroft (2003) argues that the arrest indicates the elimination of information sharing barrier with inter-border agencies. Conclusions The controversial aspect of the Patriot Act was overwhelming (Anita, 2001). For instance, the immigration provision where the Attorney General would detain a terrorist suspect indefinitely deprived fundamental rights for American immigrants as well as legal immigrate citizen. The stipulation of the Patriot Act is not in line with the principles of criminal law.

Criminal law or penal law points to the set of rules within various jurisdictions whose characteristics spell distinct and usually harsh imposition as retribution for failing to conform. Generally, criminal law rules out objectionable acts; thus, proofing a crime entails proofing some act. Some crimes require no more than the proof; however, due to the potentially harsh penalty of criminal conviction, it is significant to seek proof for intent to a bad action.

References:

Anita, R. (2001): Indefinite detention based on suspicion: How The Patriot Act Will Disrupt Many Lawful Immigrants’ Lives, FindLaw, Retrieved from http://writ. news. findlaw. com/commentary/20011005_ramasastry. html. Accessed from October 16, 2007 Ashcroft, J. (2003): Prepared Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft Preserving Life and Liberty, speech to American Enterprise Institute. Cable News Network. (2003): FBI charges Florida professor with terrorist activities, George Washington Law Review The System of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Law”.

23 – 30. Retrieved from http://www. ssrn. com/abstract=586616. Accessed on October 16, 2007 Sensenbrenner, F. J. & Conyers, J. (June 13, 2002): Letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft Siegel, L. J. & Senna, J. J. (2003): Essentials of Criminal Justice, 5th (edn. ) Taylor, S. N. (2002): Whose Liberty? Whose Security? The USA PATRIOT Act in the Context of COINTELPRO and the Unlawful Repression of Political Dissent. Oregon Law Review. 1051-1132. United States Government Printing Office. (2001) Congressional Record.