Communication Laws Patriot Act Supreme Court Cases Term Paper

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Communication Laws/Patriot Act/Supreme Court Cases

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." (First Amendment History) This is the first amendment in the Bill of Rights in the American constitution. This is the best known guarantee of freedom and protector of rights and directly stops the starting of a church supported by the government, and guarantees the freedom of worship while separating the church and the state as also the rights of speech and of the press, the rights of assembling peacefully, associating among themselves and petitioning the government. The first attempt to curtail these was by President John Adams and he signed the Sedition Act of 1798, and that gave the Federal authorities authority to prosecute any person who was suspected to be plotting against the government. That act also contained a provision to make it a criminal act to speak or write badly of the Congress. The attempt was categorized as "with the intent to defame" or to bring "into contempt or disrepute." (First Amendment History)Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Communication Laws Patriot Act Supreme Court Cases Assignment

The general aim of this Act was to stop legal political discussion and the act was criticized because of this. This led to the critics of the government stopping criticism because of the act or suffering punishment. The Act automatically expired in 1800 and was not continued. A similar sort of censorship was also tried during the First World War. This was through another sedition act. This was passed in 1918 and was about saying "disloyal or abusive language" about the flag, constitution and the government being a criminal act. Another act, the Espionage Act passed in 1917 was also against the First Amendment and that had made writing or saying anything increasing the disloyalty or stopping the drafting of soldiers an offence. These were then dealt by a Federal Censorship Board, newly created. Even after World War II censorship was a prime activity during the "McCarthy Era" or the period of "red Scare." The aim was the stoppage of communist writings, and speeches. This was also objected to by the people and even after this the First Amendment was returned back to its original position. (First Amendment History) Thus it is clear that the American government has a long history of trying to curtail people's rights by interfering with the First Amendment and this is also the aim of the Patriot Act.

The attempt by the government to interfere with the civil rights of people had started even before this government. The government has been trying to collect personal data about individual American citizens. This information was being linked through the Social Security Number. The concerned data now contains information about labor, medical, education and financial position of the citizens. The federal government is now in a position to get a detailed picture of any individual citizen and that includes the checks he writes, the types of causes he supports and what he has said in private to his doctor. Though this is a part of the information that individuals would like to keep private, a number of systems have been instituted to collect them from the citizens for "reducing fraud" or "promoting efficiency." The SSN is now at the base of a large number of government databases and these individual databases are regularly linked up and the system is also legal under the 1988 Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act. It was reported in March 2001 that there 47 exchanges between the different agencies collecting information from "September 1999 to February 2001." (Watching You Systematic Federal Surveillance of Ordinary Americans)

This shows clearly that the federal government was going ahead with a plan to exchange and merge all the available databases so that they could have a record of the personal data of all Americans. The exchanges of personal information were between the "IRS and Social Security Administration, the SSA and Health Care financing Administration, the Postal Service and Department of Labor, the Justice Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the IRS and state social service agencies, the Department of Education and the HHS and the SSA and the state courts." (Watching You Systematic Federal Surveillance of Ordinary Americans) it is clear that in spite of the existing laws there is a clear attempt by the government to become an all seeing, all knowing entity. Is there a requirement for this?

The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism, or the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act is from 2001 and contains 131 pages of law increasing the strengths and rights of the law enforcing organizations. For the individual citizen, this means that the government can now fix roving wire taps and also collect the records of the internet service provider. This also has FISA or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This law permits foreign governments to spy on Americans or foreigners in USA. This law helps the surveillance agencies to work around the limits on surveillance in U.S.. For a wiretap against a citizen, the U.S. agencies require a probable cause, but that same person can be considered to be an agent of an external country, and a FISA wiretap instituted against him. The collected information can then be given to the FBI, who was not able to do it directly. There is an attempt to further take the Patriot Act through "The Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003" or what is now called Patriot II. (Will Trading Your Freedom for a Sense of Security Really Make You Safe?)

Along with the Patriot Act, there has been a restriction of public access to documents normally available under the Freedom of Information Act. This has led the government officials to start denying public access to documents even when they have no real reason for doing so. The printing office of the government has destroyed the government records in over a thousand libraries where they were being stored, and information from the Internet has been removed by 15 government agencies. As early as 1st November 2001, President Bush had blocked the release of presidential papers as per the Presidential Records Act of 1978, even though the demand had been made before 9/11. Homeland Security Director has not testified before the Congress, and his example has been followed by other members of the Bush team in all situations even when the testimony was not related to national security. Regarding the war, and publication of statements by Osama bin Laden have been strictly censored by the media due to pressures of the government. The law had initially led to the detention of 1200 persons and the number detained now is not known. The detentions have been without information of identities or the reasons. Even where the lawsuits are going on, the government officials are not disclosing information regarding the same. Under the existing rules for military tribunals, the information purporting to concern national security has been given to the defendants, and this stops them from setting up a proper defense. (the U.S.A. Patriot Act Six Months Later: A Statement by Members of the Free Expression)

The silver lining is in the action of a federal court which struck down an entire provision of Patriot Act saying that "democracy abhors undue secrecy." (in ACLU Case, Federal Court Strikes Down Patriot Act Surveillance Power as Unconstitutional) This section gives the government total rights to get unlimited information from Internet Service Providers through "National Security Letters." This can be done even without judicial supervision. The court also found the provisions of the law to be an unconstitutional prior restraint on matters of free speech. The concerned ruling can be said to be a major blow to the present government's attempts to increase the surveillance powers of the government beyond the constitutional limits. This ruling is the first to strike down any or the new powers given to the government by the Patriot Act. The decision by Judge Victor Marrero of the Southern District of New York struck down Section 505 of the law as being a violation of free speech rights under the First Amendment as also to be free from unreasonable searches under the Fourth Amendment. The court also mentioned that the move to a more secret and coercive investigation tactics in the period after 9/11 was not warranted. (in ACLU Case, Federal Court Strikes Down Patriot Act Surveillance Power as Unconstitutional)

It is difficult to collect court action regarding this law as most of them are held in military courts and details are not published. At the same time, the Patriot Act will die a natural death, and like the previous attempts to interfere with the First Amendment, this should also be permitted to die a natural death.

Bibliography

Christofferson, John. Patriot Act stirs prosecutors to defend its use, local governments to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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