The ultimate objective of the USA Patriot Act of 2001 is achieved if the means of enforcement of the provisions of the law are justified or in accordance to moral or ethical standards. While the 9/11 terrorist attacks are already considered extraordinary times in the American history, the demand for use of extraordinary measures such as the expanded Patriot Act is only accepted when basic rights are not violated. The country’s fight against terrorism, as embodied in the Act, should serve as a reminder for the concerned sectors of the significant need to strengthen its tools or efforts to wage war on terrorism.
However, extraordinary times such as the September 11 tragedy should never be used as a ground to bend acceptable and ethical norms of the society, especially if the efforts or measures will result in violation of rights or prevention of one’s exercise of his or her innate privileges. Such unjustified enforcement of the USA Patriot Act of 2001 or its failure to give good reason for the harsh implementation of its provisions is what the American Civil Liberties Union or ACLU (2001) has explained to be the rationale behind the statement or premise that the end does not justify the means.
ACLU (2001) disclosed that the modernized Patriot Act allows the law enforcement practices of authorities and related intelligence personnel such as the FBI to circumvent the guarantee of privacy protections provided for in the handling of criminal investigations or cases. The Union’s position stresses the idea that extraordinary times do not necessitate extraordinary measures, and that the ends do not justify the means. Hence, there is no need to bend rules that are morally or ethically accepted (ACLU, 2001).
ACLU (2001) further said that the law would just expand the power of law enforcement such as in cases where the FBI can spy on any individual, whether he or she is suspected or not of terrorism activities, under the premise that it is being done for purposes of domestic surveillance or intelligence gathering which is contrary to the supposedly main purpose of investigating a criminal act. In effect, this law enforcement practice of the FBI in particular is inclined to circumvent a normal or traditional criminal justice process (ACLU, 2001).
In addition, ACLU (2001) emphasized that the offensive implementation of the law under the disguise of intelligence purposes or national security only aims to prevent people from exercising their privacy rights and protection of related privileges, especially those who are involved in criminal case. In fact, the ACLU (2001) added that even the President of the United States is governed by the laws of the land. The means employed to perform electronic communication surveillance of any form is definitely still under the restriction of the Constitution.
Specifically, even if Section 218 of the Patriot Act allows for the warrant-less searches and foreign counter-intelligence efforts, current actual law enforcement practices have proven otherwise that this provision is disadvantageously utilized to all people living in the U. S. , citizens and foreign nationals alike. In essence, this application of the Patriot Act evidently thwarts an individual’s privacy right who is suspected to be involved in criminal case. Hence, it defeats the very purpose of the law which is to eliminate the fear of terrorism (ACLU, 2001).
End of Civil Liberties While law enforcement practices entail stricter implementations of the USA Patriot Act of 2001, upholding one’s right to privacy is to be considered above anything else. Specifically, law enforcement authorities’ use of roving wiretaps and breach of inmate-counsel communication privilege should not be sacrificed. The application of the law, in light of the protection of the country from further terrorism harms, is a general acceptable ground if done not to the detriment of a person’s right to privacy or exercise of related First Amendment privileges.
The use of roving wiretaps and violation of the communication right between a suspect or inmate and his or her counsel are alarming signs of end of civil liberties. Hence, it is unfortunate to note that specific provisions of the updated Patriot Act evidently adhere to such kinds of law enforcement practices. This is because the public’s freedom and one’s rights in particular should always be upheld and never cease to exist in a democratic country such as the U. S. Due to the fact that it is embodied in the Patriot Act, and it is already enforced, the use of roving wiretaps by law enforcers could be technically acceptable only in extreme cases where a person is ascertained to be capable of doing terrorism acts.
In effect, the same should apply to the authorities’ monitoring of the client-counsel communication right if the inmate is a terrorist suspect. Enforcing an otherwise violation of one’s rights will definitely lead to the end of civil liberties. Conclusion Anti-terrorism measure such as the Patriot Act undeniably augments and empowers the American’s war against terrorism. However, any law or effort which aims to address terrorism needs to be subjected to rights standards. Beyond the purpose of eliminating fear of terrorism among American people and preventing similar tragedy in the future is the necessity to respect the rights of an individual and protect him or her from potential offensive implementation of the law.
The effect of 9/11 should be a realization of the need to balance the rights of the people and secure the country from the harms of terrorism. When there is protection of civil liberties and promotion of person’s rights, the very essence anti-terrorism effort is ultimately achieved.
- American Civil Liberties Union. (2001, October 23). How the USA-Patriot Act Enables Law Enforcement to Use Intelligence Authorities to Circumvent the Privacy Protections Afforded in Criminal Cases. Retrieved August 20, 2008, from https://www.aclu.org/other/how-anti-terrorism-bill-enables-law-enforcement-use-intelligence-authorities-circumvent?redirect=cpredirect/14349
- Electronic Frontier Foundation. (2003, October 27). EFF Analysis of the Provisions of the USA Patriot Act. Retrieved August 20, 2008, from http://w2. eff. org/Privacy/Surveillance/Terrorism/20011031_eff_usa_patriot_analysis. php
- Electronic Privacy Information Center. (2005, November 17). The USA PATRIOT Act. Retrieved August 20, 2008, from http://epic. org/privacy/terrorism/usapatriot/
- Minow, M. (2002, October 1). The USA Patriot Act. Library Journal. Retrieved August 20, 2008 from http://www. libraryjournal. com/article/CA245044. html
- Podesta, J. (2002). USA Patriot Act: The Good, the Bad, and the Sunset. Human Rights Magazine, 29(1). Retrieved August 20, 2008 from American Bar Association Database: http://www. abanet. org/irr/hr/winter02/podesta. html
- Scheppler, B. (2005). The USA Patriot Act: Anti-terror Legislation in Response to 9/11. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group.