Patriot Act Research Paper

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TOPIC: Research Paper on Patriot Act Assignment

Throughout American history the power that law enforcement has over its citizens has been increasingly brought to the forefront. This is because there have been times when situations occur that the country's liberty or perceived threats to liberty could be at stake. As a result, Congress will give law enforcement greater powers, which they normally would not have under the Constitution. Where, the overall intent is to limit the scope of damage that could occur from a particular organization or foreign power. In some cases, this could involve seeing a particular group of the population subject to increased amounts of scrutiny because of these fears. A good example of this can be seen during World War II, where thousand of Japanese-Americans were rounded up, deprived of their land / liberty and were sent to internment camps scattered throughout the rural parts of the Western United States. The fear was that with the United States at war with Japan, they could have various agents infiltrate the Japanese-American community. At which point, they could engage in sabotage. In many ways, the overall affects of such actions would create a panic similar to the aftermath of September 11th. Where, no one was sure if another attack was imminent. In the case of the Japanese there were reports about the Hoover Dam being the first such target. To calm fears around the nation, the government would send all Japanese-Americans to internment camps for the duration of the war. ("Warns of Dangers to Dams in West," 1943) a similar situation occurred after the September 11th terrorist attacks, where the various officials were concerned that Al Quida could have other sleeper cells waiting to strike. As a result, Congress gave sweeping new power to law enforcement to effectively track and monitor the activities of different terrorist organizations (the Patriot Act). This was a law that allowed the police and intelligence officials to be able to quickly track as well as monitor terrorist activities, by circumventing the traditional Constitutional procedures of obtaining a warrant. As a result, both proponents and critics of the bill have been passionately debating the effectiveness or damage that is occurring to society. To fully understand both sides of the issue requires a careful examination of the Patriot Act itself, the views of proponents and the criticisms of the law. Together, these different elements will provide the greatest insights as to what affect the Patriot Act has had upon society.

The Patriot Act

Prior to the September 11th attacks, law enforcement was restricted in the intelligence that they gather from foreign intelligence agencies. Where, the information that was obtained could be used by the nation's foreign intelligence service to track suspected agents / operatives until they reached the borders of the United States. At which point, the FBI would have to take over the investigation to follow this particular suspect in the United States. This is because the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) restricted how foreign intelligence was developed and utilized by law enforcement. Part of the reason for this was because of the obvious abuses that had occurred from the 1950's to the early 1970's. Where, such information was used to conduct illegal activities against foreign agents and American citizens. ("Excerpts from Court Ruling on Justice Departments Broad Powers," 2002) a good example of this can be seen with a secret program that the CIA was running from 1949 to 1973. Where the intention was to secretly test various mind control drugs on suspected foreign intelligence operatives and unsuspecting citizens to include: college students, prisoners and ordinary people. ("Alarm Sounds and CIA Wakes Up in Nightmare Alley," 1977) Because of these and other shocking allegations that had occurred, Congress passed FISA to control the overall power that the intelligence community / law enforcement would have over surveillance activities. The problem with the FISA is that it limited the overall ability of domestic law enforcement and the nation's foreign intelligence services to monitor / detect when someone is planning a major terrorist attack. As a result, the FISA allowed for rivalries to develop between the different law enforcement and intelligence agencies, which would only help terrorists to function more effectively under the radar. A good example of this can be seen with the arrest of Zacharias Moussaoui, where he was the only September 11th highjacker to be arrested. The reason why the FBI was detaining him was not based on anything involved with the September 11th terrorist attacks. Instead, he contacted a flight school in Minnesota and wanted to learn how to fly without landing the plane, which caused the owner to become suspicious (who alerted the police). As a result, the subsequent investigation showed that he was wanted on an immigration violation. Federal authorities were in the process of sending him back to France when the September 11th attacks occurred and were able to figure out the role of Moussaoui in the plot. (Dailey, 2001) This is significant because it underscores how the Congress had the best of intentions when they passed the FISA. The problem was that they restricted both intelligence and law enforcement officials' ability to track / monitor the activities of a suspected terrorist coming into the United States. Where, the CIA could be monitoring a suspect, once they reach the border is when all activity will stop. This allowed the September 11th highjackers to be able to enter the U.S. And plan their attacks with near impunity. As a result, Congress increased the ability of law enforcement to track and monitor different suspects by allowing them to have easier access to conduct surveillance, through the use of wireless warrants. This is where the police can be able to effectively tap into various telephone and internet communications to monitor the conversations of suspected terrorist. ("Excerpts from Court Ruling on Justice Departments Broad Powers," 2002)

Proponents vs. Opponents

The Patriot Act gives the law enforcement the power to conduct a number of different activities with little to no judicial oversight to include: domestic spying, roving wire taps, random searches and the monitoring of email activity. (Marcovitz, 2008) Many proponents will argue that this act is essential in ensuring that law enforcement has the tools necessary to go after those who are intending to conduct terrorist activities. While, many critics argue that the language of the law is so vague, that the different provisions of the Act can be used to go after advocacy groups and citizens / organizations that have nothing to do with terrorism.

The Patriot Act is Necessary

This constant tug of war has caused the proponents to argue that the effectiveness of the law can be seen with its overall results, where there has not been a terrorist attack on American soil since September 11th. This is because the law gives law enforcement a number of different benefits to include: quicker approvals of warrants, effective use of the internet / new technology and it allows for improved coordination. When looking at the first benefit, quicker approvals of warrants, it is clear that law enforcement was constrained because of various civil rights issues prior to the passage of the law. This is because the process of obtaining a warrant was cumbersome. Where, they would have to prepare a warrant, schedule a hearing in front of judge and the begin installing the various bugs / electronic equipment. The problem with such a legal procedure is that they were slow and ineffective. As the process could take several days from the time that a warrant is required until it has been approved by a judge. When someone in law enforcement or the intelligence community is perusing a suspected terrorist, these kinds of procedural delays could be critical. This is because the terrorist will often switch the type of electronic devices that they are using and the way that they communicate with their organization. Any kind of delay in conducting the surveillance of the suspect could result in key pieces of intelligence being lost. This is why proponents will argue that the law is effective at helping to successfully detect and interrupt possible terrorist activities. A good example of this can be seen by looking no further than, when a Bush Administration official called the law, "Smart, ordinary and Constitutional." (Lichtblau, 2004)

The second benefit, effective use of the internet / new technology, highlights how technology has changed the way that many terrorist organizations operate. Where, many suspected terrorists will communicate with each other on number of different cell phones, the internet and on traditional land lines. The problem for law enforcement is that they would have to obtain a warrant to have any kind of surveillance conducted on the various devices. However, with the roaming warrant provision of the Patriot Act, law enforcement can receive an expedited warrant that could apply to all of the different electronic devices. A good example of this can be seen with comments from President Bush who said, "We're dealing with… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Patriot Act" Research Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Patriot Act.  (2010, May 1).  Retrieved September 26, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Patriot Act."  1 May 2010.  Web.  26 September 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Patriot Act."  May 1, 2010.  Accessed September 26, 2021.