Research Paper: USA Patriot Act on Law

Pages: 8 (2950 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Terrorism  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] The overall prevalence of possible violations was between 7 and 10%, with 90% of the suspected violations representing improper collection of telephone and internet records. The error rate increased substantially to 71.5% when it was discovered that close to 50% of a representative sample of NSLs were issued for non-active investigations.

The original purpose of NSL authority was to be able to react quickly when confronted by an imminent terrorist threat. The data provided by the Inspector General seems to suggest that there was an average of 50,000 instances per year when time was too short to get a proper warrant during a terrorism investigation. This seems like an incredibly high number of close calls. The dubious nature of these NSLs was also called into question by the finding that close to 50% were written for non-active cases.

On June 7, 2012, Muslims from New Jersey filed a federal lawsuit against the City of New York to stop the New York Police Department (NYPD) from spying on their community and to destroy all the intelligence information that had been gathered in the past (Kazmi, 2012). This lawsuit was triggered by the realization that in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD intelligence officers began to monitor the activities of Muslims living in New York City and New Jersey. The reported purpose of these intelligence activities was stopping future terrorist attacks. The plaintiffs allege that such activities violate the U.S. Constitution and other laws, because Muslims were being targeted simply because of their religious affiliation and ethnicity.

What the NYPD intelligence officers found during their surveillance activities was a religious community dedicated to American values (Goldman and Apuzzo, 2012). For example, when Muslims in other countries were calling for the death of a Danish cartoonist who portrayed the Prophet Muhammad in an unfavorable manner, an Imam in New Jersey called for legal protests. In fact, all the intelligence gathered in these Muslim communities resulted in no credible terrorism leads. As Ayesha Kazmi (2012) points out, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the passage of several anti-Constitutional rights bills, including the Patriot Act, eight Muslims accused of no crimes must now sue the government to get their privacy rights back.

While this allegedly illegal spying program could have occurred with or without the Patriot Act, there are hints that the more permissive atmosphere regarding greater cooperation between law enforcement, the military, and intelligence agencies may have played a role. The CIA played a significant role in NYPD spying efforts on Muslims, by providing training for police officers at CIA facilities, CIA training of police officers in the field, and assigning a senior CIA officer to NYPD headquarters (Apuzzo and Goldman, 2011). This style of spying has been called human mapping (Apuzzo and Goldman, 2011) and is surprisingly similar to the Human Terrain System (HTS) developed by the U.S. Army (Kazmi, 2012). HTS is a program designed to infiltrate a sociocultural community for the purposes of knowing more about the community, but within a war zone. In a similar manner, the NYPD engaged what they called 'rakers' and 'mosque crawlers' to infiltrate Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey. A more familiar term for these operatives is informants. Given these realizations, it seems that the spirit of greater interagency cooperation encoded in the Patriot Act has been achieved, but to the detriment of U.S. Muslim communities.

The ability of law enforcement to eavesdrop on electronic communications and electronically-stored information has been attributed to the surveillance powers conferred by the Patriot Act (Wolf, 2012). Invoking national security interests, the CIA and FBI eavesdropped on confidential communications between the sitting head of the CIA, General Patraeus, and his biographer. However, as Naomi Wolf points out, why expose the affair to the public?

In a related matter, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have sued the Department of Justice over concerns that the Patriot Act is being interpreted too broadly, due to evidence suggesting that law enforcement and intelligence agencies are indiscriminately scooping up electronic information communicated across the internet (Gross, 2011). In a manner similar to NSLs, requests for electronic information under Section 215 of the Patriot Act come with a gag order, which makes it difficult to track what these agencies are doing. The best estimate is that 80% of Section 215 requests were for internet records. This would explain how the FBI was able to monitor communications between General Patraeus and his biographer. However, it is unclear why it would be in the interest of national security to publicly expose an illicit love affair.

Summary

The extreme emotional atmosphere within which the Patriot Act was enacted is understandable, but the continued support of this Act for more than a decade, in light of the apparent intrusions into Constitutionally-protected civil liberties, defies common sense. The argument that the Act has been very effective because there have not been any successful terrorist attacks on American soil is at best unscientific, and at worst disingenuous. Even the FBI's Inspector General was shocked by the indifference FBI agents were showing to individual liberties through the apparent indiscriminate issuance of NSLs.

The Associated Press reporters, who broke the story about NYPD spying on Muslim communities, discovered that even city administrators were unaware of what the police were doing. Although the barriers to interagency cooperation may have been lowered, the barriers to public oversight seem to have grown stronger and more opaque. These concerns were raised by Senators Ron Wyden (D, OR) and Mark Udal (D, CO), who stated that Americans "… would be stunned and angry about the government's interpretation of Section 215" (Gross, 2011). Maybe this explains the need for secrecy conferred to law enforcement agencies by the Patriot Act.

References

Abdo, Alexander and Mercuris, Hannah. (2012, May 9). National Security Letters: A little less secret? Free Future (blog), ACLU.org. Retrieved 20 Nov. 2012 from http://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/national-security-letters-little-less-secret.

Apuzzo, Matt and Goldman, Adam. (2011, Aug. 23). With CIA help, NYPD moves covertly in Muslim areas. AP.org. Retrieved 20 Nov. 2012 from http://www.ap.org/Content/AP-in-the-News/2011/With-CIA-help-NYPD-moves-covertly-in-Muslim-areas.

Carter, Jimmy. (2011, June 16). Call off the global drug war. New York Times, A35. Retrieved 20 Nov. 2012 from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/17/opinion/17carter.html?_r=0.

DOJ (2004). Report from the field: The U.S.A. PATRIOT Act at work. Justice.gov. Retrieved 20 Nov. 2012 from http://www.justice.gov/olp/pdf/patriot_report_from_the_field0704.pdf.

DOJ (n.d.). The U.S.A. PATRIOT Act: Preserving life and liberty. Justice.gov. Retrieved 19 Nov. 2012 from http://www.justice.gov/archive/ll / what_is_the_patriot_act.pdf.

EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation). (2007). Wiretap statistics: How big is the risk? EFF.org. Retrieved 20 Nov. 2012 from https://ssd.eff.org/wire/govt/wiretap-statistics.

Goldman, Adam and Apuzzo, Matt. (2012, Feb. 24). NYPD defends tactics over mosque spying; records reveal new details on Muslim surveillance. HuffingtonPost.com. Retrieved 20 Nov. 2012 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/nypd-defends-tactics-over_n_1298997.html.

Greene, Robyn. (2011). Surveillance under the Patriot Act: A tool in the government's war on privacy? Absolutely. But in its War on Terror? Not so much & #8230; Blog of Rights, ACLU.org. Retrieved 20 Nov. 2012 from http://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform/tool-governments-war-privacy-absolutely-its-war-terror-not-so-much.

Gross, Grant. (2011, Oct. 26). EFF, ACLU file lawsuits over Patriot Act data collection. IDG News Service. Retrieved 20 Nov. 2012 from http://www.pcworld.com/article/242642/eff_aclu_file_lawsuits_over_patriot_act_data_collection.html.

Kazmi, Ayesha. (2012, June 8). New Jersey Muslims sue to protect their rights from NYPD spying. The Guardian. Retrieved 20 Nov. 2012 from http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/08/new-jersey-muslims-sue-nypd-spying.

McNeir, D. Kevin. (2011). Jails bursting at the seams with young Blacks: Prison industrial complex is big money for private investors. MiamiTimesOnline.com. Retrieved 20 Nov. 2012 from http://miamitimesonline.com/jails-bursting-at-the-seams-with-young-blacks/.

OIG (Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice). (2008). A review of the FBI's use of National Security Letters: Assessment of corrective actions and examination of NSL usage in 2006. Justice.org. Retrieved 20 Nov. 2012 from http://www.justice.gov/oig/special/s0803b/final.pdf.

Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act of 2001, H.R. 3162, 107th Congress, (2001-2002). Bill Summary & Status. Retrieved 19 Nov. 2012 from http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z-d107:H.R.3162:.

Wolf, Naomi. (2012, Nov. 20). Sexual privacy under threat in a surveillance society. CNN.com. Retrieved 20 Nov. 2012 from http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/19/opinion/wolf-marriage-infidelity/index.html.

Wong, Kam C. (2006a). The making of the U.S.A. Patriot Act I: The legislative process and dynamics. International Journal of the Sociology of Law, 34, 179-219.

Wong, Kam C. (2006b). The making of the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act II: Public sentiments, legislative climate, political gamesmanship, media patriotism. International Journal of the Sociology of Law, 34, 105-140. Retrieved 19 Nov. 2012 from http://www.sciencedirect.com / science/article/pii/S0194659506000219. [END OF PREVIEW]

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USA Patriot Act on Law.  (2012, November 21).  Retrieved May 21, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/usa-patriot-act-law/7272756

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"USA Patriot Act on Law."  Essaytown.com.  November 21, 2012.  Accessed May 21, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/usa-patriot-act-law/7272756.