The USA PATRIOT Act confers wide ranging powers on US law enforcement authorities. This has been criticized by a number of civil rights, political and religious leaders. Moreover, the constitutionality of this Act has been disputed, amidst allegations of abuse against ethnic communities. Many instances of maltreatment of ethnic groups have come to the foreground, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the US. As such, a number of such instances had been reported, in respect of Arabs, Muslims, Sikhs and South Asians.
The Bureau of Personnel was accused on several occasions, of having committed a number of atrocities against detainees. In one instance, detainees had been threatened with exposure to noxious fumes, whereas in another instance, a detainee had been sprayed with an abrasive substance, beaten and then deported to his country of origin. In general, officials of the Bureau of Personnel were accused of having targeted Muslim detainees and employing more than the amount of required force against them. Such detainees were abused and not provided with medical help.
In addition, the cells of Muslim detainees were subjected to a large number of thorough examinations that was over and above what was warranted by the situation. Furthermore, these inmates were not permitted to watch television, read books or newspapers (Seper). In addition, the USA PATRIOT Act grants law enforcement agencies the power to ignore the provisions of the Fourth Constitutional Amendment, which requires them to establish probable cause, whilst indulging in electronic eavesdropping for the ostensible reason of gathering foreign intelligence.
Moreover, this Act permits the distribution of information between intelligence operations and criminals. The outcome of such an eventuality is the reappearance of espionage activities against the populace of the US (Nancy). With this Act, Congress has permitted the Executive to deploy advanced observation tools that are subject to a modicum of Congressional and judicial supervision. The enactment of the USA PATRIOT Act entailed a near hysterical haste on the part of Congress. Thus, the latter failed to ascertain whether these new surveillance tools were necessary to combat terrorism.
In addition, Congress failed to determine whether the Executive could be trusted to abstain from abusing the enormous power provided by these new tools (Nancy). The Kyllo case, dealt with the use of a thermal imaging device to detect the presence of marijuana plants that were being raised in the defendant’s dwelling. The Supreme Court held that the use of a device, whose functioning was unknown to the general public, required a warrant. The police had clandestinely used this device to detect marijuana and then to arrest the defendant.
The Supreme Court opined that this act constituted a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. In its ruling the Supreme Court held that in accordance with the Fourth Amendment provisions, such a search was tantamount to being presumptively unreasonable in the absence of a warrant. The important conclusion to be drawn from this ruling is that if a method of search is reasonably well established from the point of view of the general public, then its use does not constitute a violation of the Fourth Amendment (Kyllo v.
United States). This shows a dilution of the right of privacy of individuals. There are a number of provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act that drastically curtail the rights of individuals. For instance, section 213 sets aside the knock and announces principle that had been hither to fore enshrined in the Fourth Amendment’s definition of reasonable enquiry. Moreover, section 215 of this Act, waters down the requirements of and expands the applicability of the FISA or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
As such, section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act empowers the FBI to move the courts to issue an order, whereby it can procure books, records, documents and similar objects, apparently for conducting investigations that aim to prevent terrorist or secret intelligence activities (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001). This constitutes a gross violation of the privacy of individuals. The court held that there was no necessity for securing a warrant in cases involving foreign intelligence.
On the other hand, cases involving normal criminal investigations required the adoption of such a procedure, because of the competence of the judiciary to decide about the probable cause. This was the decision in United States v. Truong Dinh Hung, and the court went on to state that in the absence of foreign policy interests, there was no necessity for the Executive to adopt measures that attempted to override the normal judicial procedures (TRUONG DINH HUNG v. UNITED STATES of America). Similarly, in United States v.
Johnson, the Ninth Circuit Court decried the employment of FISA for circumventing the requirement of a warrant for conducting a search, as enshrined in the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution (UNITED STATES of America v. Robert Lee JOHNSON). Section 412 of the US PATRIOT Act provides for the indefinite detention of immigrants. These detentions merely require a certification from the Attorney General that he suspects the immigrant, on the basis of reasonable grounds, of being involved in terrorist activities.
Thus non – citizens are at risk of being deprived of their liberty, without the due process of law (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001). Consequently, immigrants who had participated in political activities, as a result of their connection with an organization that had breached the law, can be detained without trial or deported. In Abdah v. Bush the DC District Court was petitioned by some Yemeni nationals who had been apprehended in Pakistan and detained in the Guantanamo Bay.
These detainees feared deportation to a third country where they would be tortured. The DC District Court acceded to their plea, because on being transferred to a third country, these detainees’ habeas corpus petition would no longer be of any relevance in the US (Abdah v. Bush ). In Abu Ali v. Gonzales Abu Ali a US citizen had undertaken studies in Saudi Arabia. He was arrested by the Saudi authorities for having terrorist leanings. The US government had him deported and then indicted him on several charges of criminal conspiracy.
The DC District Court relied on the evidence obtained from Abu Ali by the Saudi authorities and sentenced Abu Ali. This decision generated criticism from some quarters, because of the fact that Saudi Arabia routinely employs torture in interrogations. Hence, the sentencing court was criticised for having relied on evidence obtained through torture (Abu Ali v. Gonzales ). With this ruling, the courts have made evidence obtained through torture admissible. In ACLU v.
DOD the American Civil Liberties Union or ACLU moved the District Court of the South District of New York to force the CIA to provide details regarding the death and torture of detainees by the latter. The contention of the CIA that these details were classified and could not be disclosed was not accepted by the court, which ruled that no stay of proceedings could be granted to the CIA, which was clearly violating the law by not making such disclosures (ACLU v. DOD ). In Almurbati v. Bush the petitioners who had been detained at Guantanamo moved the D. C.
District Court to compel the US authorities to inform them beforehand, regarding their transfer to a foreign country. The court did not accede to their request, which could have prevented their being subjected to torture, and merely asked the US authorities to provide adequate explanation after any such transfer (Almurbati v. Bush ). This decision effectively exposed Guantanamo detainees to torture. In Al – Marri v. Rumsfeld a citizen of Qatar was declared an enemy combatant and detained in South Carolina after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The 7th Circuit Court dismissed his habeas corpus petition on technical grounds (Al-Marri v.
Rumsfeld ). In effect, the court had condoned the petitioner’s inhuman and degrading incarceration, which had resulted from the mere suspicion of the US authorities that he had been involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US. The privacy of individuals in the US has been compromised to a great extent, due to the promulgation of the USA PATRIOT Act. The executive branch of the government has been bestowed with wide ranging unparalleled powers, which are not subject to scrutiny. Some of these powers permit it to check electronic mail messages received and sent and websites visited.
It also, allows the executive to conduct sneak and peek searches, procure confidential personal information, observe financial transactions and to electronically eavesdrop on conversations across the country (Nancy). As such, the USA PATRIOT Act violates constitutional provisions under the guise of anti – terrorism measures.
Abdah v. Bush . No. U. S. Dist. LEXIS 4942 (D. C. Cir. 2005). D. C. District Court. 2005. Abu Ali v. Gonzales . No. 387 F. Supp. 2d 16 (D. C. Cir. 2005). D. C. Circuit Court. 2005. ACLU v. DOD . No. 351 F. Supp. 2d 265 (S. D. N. Y. 2005). District Court of the South District of New York. 2005.