Term Paper: Patriot Act in Response

Pages: 10 (2941 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Terrorism  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] The act was approved by the House Judiciary Committee and slated for a full vote.

On October 13, 2001, hours after the Senate approved its version of the anti-terrorism bill, the House of Representatives followed suit by voting 339-79 to ease limits on wiretapping and Internet monitoring (McCullough, October 13, 2001). However, the House attached an expiration date to the act. Still, this move was not unanimous. Many legislators argued that House leaders had forced a vote before anyone could adequately review the bill. Earlier that day, top House Republicans met privately and agreed to use the Senate's anti-terrorism bill instead of the more moderate one that their peers had expected.

For the most part, Democrats were the greatest critics of that decisions. According to Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts), the House's decision was "an outrageous procedure: A bill, drafted by a handful of people in secret, comes to us without a committee review and immune to amendment (McCullough, October 13, 2001)."

Attempts to send the U.S.A. Act back to the House Judiciary Committee for further review was prevented by a 345-73 vote. Basically, the majority of Republicans, who understood President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft's urgent desire to obtain these additional powers, refrained from criticizing the decision and generally spoke favorably of the act.

Rep. Ric Keller (R-Florida) said: "Let us not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good (McCullough, October 13, 2001)."

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Connecticut) brought up a valid point -- the urgency of the recent anthrax attacks: "Because I believe our country can face a chemical, biological or, heaven forbid, nuclear attack by terrorists, I believe this bill is necessary and we have no time to waste (McCullough, October 13, 2001)."

Once again, Rep. Bob Barr (R-Georgia), who is a well-known privacy warrior, said that while he was not fully satisfied with the U.S.A. Act, he would support it. "It is absolutely imperative we take very seriously the sunset provisions in this bill," Barr said (McCullough, October 13, 2001).

As a result, civil libertarians protested many of the provisions in the Patriot Act, arguing that the expansion of police powers and the reduction of personal privacy will not make citizens any safer from terrorists -- it will simply enable the government to interfere with the privacy of its people. This group refers to the several thousand people who have been imprisoned without the benefit of a lawyer, or even access to family members, even though no criminal charges are filed against them. They claim that this type of injustice is proof that the Patriot Acts give the government far too much power and inadequate oversight. Ardent civil libertarians have gone so far as to compare the Patriot Acts to the laws passed down in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s.

Despite arguments from opponents of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, the U.S. government insists that this legislation will be used solely to combat terrorism. According to Attorney General John Ashcroft and others in law enforcement claim, the Patriot Acts are necessary to allow them to interdict terrorist organizations.

The U.S.A. Patriot Act (an acronym for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism") of 2001 is a 131-page act that expands the powers of law enforcement (Somers, 2002). These expansions include roving wiretaps and increased access to the records of Americans' Internet service providers (ISPs).

The act also includes expansions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) -- an existing act that enables foreign governments to spy on Americans or foreigners in the U.S. (Somers, 2002). The expanded clauses enable foreign governments to dodge around American domestic surveillance limitations. For example, obtaining a FISA wiretap against a U.S. person where "probable cause" does not exist, but when the person is suspected to be an agent of a foreign government. The information can then be shared with the FBI, who were previously unable to wiretap without a court sanctioned warrant.

Finally, on October 26, 2001, both houses of Congress overwhelmingly passed the bill, which was dubbed the U.S.A. Patriot Act (CNN News, 2001). The next day, President Bush signed the legislation, making it official. Attorney General John Ashcroft, a solid backer of the legislation, said federal agents would immediately begin using their new rights. These new rights include the use of more foreign intelligence information and expanded wiretapping authority. The bill also strengthens penalties for those who support terrorism.


September 11th deeply affected all Americans. For the first time in many people's lives, national security became a top priority as the government launched the war on terrorism. New security measures in airports and in public buildings were instituted to protect the public from further terrorist attacks. Congress passed the Patriot Act in an effort to give law enforcement new tools to track down terrorists. While many may argue that the act stifled civil liberties, it was necessary to protect our nation and people.

In this case, civil protection was a greater priority than civil liberties, as the nation's liberties would be jeopardized without protection. The act may have taken away some civil liberties but it was also necessary in helping enforcement agents to prevent future terrorist attacks, rather than just respond with prosecutions after these attacks occurred.

According to President Bush, the U.S.A. Patriot Act protects, rather than diminishes, civil liberties by increasing the government's ability to prevent, rather than just respond to terrorism. The President stated, when signing the bill, that it was important to "take an essential step in defeating terrorism, while protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans (CNN News, 2001)."

On the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush called for expansion of the Patriot Act, stating that the current law still prevents law enforcement officials to pursue terror suspects (O'Rourke, 2003). The President believes that the act provided many new rights but did not go far enough. Bush has called for empowering authorities in terrorist investigations to issue subpoenas without having to go to grand juries, to hold suspects without bail and to pursue the death penalty in more cases.

According to Bush, the "forces of global terror cannot be appeased, and they can't be ignored. They must be hunted. They must be found, and they will be defeated (O'Rourke, 2003)." He then stated that he would call for "extraordinary measures" in expanding police powers, but said they must be undertaken.

Both Democratic and Republican members of Congress have criticized the Patriot Act as being too invasive, and a half-dozen bills to roll back portions of the law are pending in Congress, so Bush's proposals are likely to face many challenges. Still, it must be noted that the U.S. is still a target of terrorism and that we still need to take drastic measures to safeguard America's future. For this reason, it is important to follow through on Bush's proposals.

According to Bush, under current statutes, "there are unreasonable obstacles to investigating and prosecuting terrorism, obstacles that don't exist when law enforcement officials are going after embezzlers or drug traffickers (Hunt, 2003)."

For this reason, it is apparent that the Patriot Act must be amended to include additional rights for law enforcement agencies. The liberty and safety of all Americans is at stake. According to Ashcroft (Sales, 2003), "a two to one majority of Americans believe the Patriot Act is necessary and an effective tool that protects liberty because it targets terrorists. Ninety-one per cent of Americans understand that the Patriot Act has not affected their civil rights or the civil rights of their families." It is obvious that the events of September 11 have reminded us of the government's need to protect its people. In this light, the Patriot Act helps to preserve life and liberty.


CNN News. (October 26, 2001). Bush signs antiterrorism bill into law. AOL Time Warner Company. Retrieved from the Internet at http://www.cnn.com/2001/U.S./10/26/rec.bush.antiterror.bill/index.html.

Doyle, Charles. (April 18, 2002). The U.S.A. PATRIOT Act: A Sketch. CRS Report for Congress, Issue RS21203.

Hunt, Terrence. (September 10, 2003). Bush asks Congress to give law enforcement wider powers to fight terrorism. Cnews.com. Retrieved from the Internet at http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/WarOnTerrorism/2003/09/07/179092-ap.html.

McCullagh, Declan. (October 4, 2001). Patriot Bill Moves Along. Wired Magazine.

McCullough, Declan. (October 13, 2001). House Endorses Snoop Bill. Wired Magazine.

O'Harrow, Robert. (October 27, 2002). Six Weeks in Autumn. The Washington Post, pg. W06.

O'Rourke, Lawrence. (September 11, 2003). Bush says Expand Patriot Act. Bee Washington Bureau.

Sales, Leigh. (August 2003). U.S. Attorney General tours America touting Patriot Act. ABC National. Retrieved from the Internet at http://www.abc.net.au/correspondents/content/2003/s935464.htm.

Somers, Andrew. (2002). Background - The Patriot Act. About.com. Retrieved… [END OF PREVIEW]

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