USA Patriot Act Thesis

Pages: 7 (2175 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Terrorism

USA Patriot Act

The United States we know today is the result of endless processes of change. The modifications that led to the creation of the contemporary American society emerged from diverse backgrounds, including society, economy, politics, arts or technology. The common feature of all these is that they have to be united and unified through a legislation that protects all parties to a process. The laws developed and implemented by the U.S. Federal Government are extremely complex and it takes a politics specialist to truly comprehend all of their facets. An interesting specification to be made about the American legislation is that each state has the liberty to guide itself by the principles and laws they find most suitable. "Each state has its own unique legal system, of which all but one (Louisiana, which is still influenced by the Napoleonic Code) are based on English common law" (Central Intelligence Agency, 2008).

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The fact that each state has the liberty to guide itself by the laws desired further increases the complexity of the American legislation. There are however also those laws and acts which are unequivocally accepted in all 51 states. These would include the American Constitution, the Bill of Right or the U.S.A. Patriot Act. The U.S.A. Patriot Act is a bill of the U.S. Senate passed as a response to the terrorist attacks in September 2001. The act is one of the most controversial bills in the American history, and whilst its disclaimers recognize its necessity, they argue that the current form does not benefit the liberties of the average American citizen. The aim of this paper is to elaborate on the act, in terms of its definition, ideology, introduced measures and generated controversy.

2. What is the U.S.A. Patriot Act?

TOPIC: Thesis on USA Patriot Act Assignment

The USA PATRIOT Act was implemented by the Bush Administration starting with the 26th of October, 2001. It came into force one month after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on the 11th of September, the same year. The acronym stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. The act is highly controversial, having raised both proclaimers and disclaimers.

The Act gives federal officials greater authority to track and intercept communications, both for law enforcement and foreign intelligence gathering purposes. It vests the Secretary of the Treasury with regulatory powers to combat corruption of U.S. financial institutions for foreign money laundering purposes. It seeks to further close our borders to foreign terrorists and to detain and remove those within our borders. It creates new crimes, new penalties, and new procedural efficiencies for use against domestic and international terrorists. Although it is not without safeguards, critics contend some of its provisions go too far. Although it grants many of the enhancements sought by the Department of Justice, others are concerned that it does not go far enough" (Doyle, 2002).

It was voted without any major debates and almost with unanimity. The U.S.A. Patriot Act is based on two previous acts: H.R. 2975 in the House and S.1510 in the American Senate. The second was passed by the Senate on the 11th of October and the same day, the House issued an amended version of their law, which was passed on the 12th of October. The two political powers agreed to several modifications and finally came up with the final version of the act, which was ratified by President George W. Bush on the 26th. The act better addressed issues in previous laws, which had been neglected, but also introduced new provisions, such as more drastic punishments or means of addressing money laundering cases (Doyle, 2002).

3. Ideology and Measures of the Patriot Act

As it has already been established, the Patriot Act came into being as a response to the terrorist attacks against America on the 11th of September, 2001. What has to be noted about the United States and international terrorism is that the U.S. had already been engaged in actions even before the passing of the act. "The United States had been in an undeclared war against terrorism for decades prior to the September 11, 2001, attacks by Al Qaeda terrorists. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, three presidential administrations - Republican (Ronald Reagan, 1981-1989; Bush, 1989-1993) and Democratic (Bill Clinton, 1993-2001) - had to respond to attacks against Americans, both at home and abroad, carried out, for the most part, by small numbers of foreign extremist religious groups who had declared war against the United States" (Ball, 2004).

Despite the previous existence of a war on terrorism, the actual success of the American forces was rather limited. As Howard Ball points out, "the overall response from the White House and America's intelligence-gathering agencies (the FBI and the CIA) was at best tepid and at worst, incompetent." The authorities had proven unable to identify and prevent the terrorist actions taking place in the near vicinity of the World Trade Center. The frustrations aroused by this failure, as well as the desire to stop terrorism, have lead to the formation of the Patriot Act. Otherwise put, the Act only came of officialize this war against terrorism and to offer a legal background for it.

The Website of the U.S. Department of Justice reveals four major ways in which the Act supports the war on terrorism. Each of these four means is multifaceted and generates a chain reaction. They are as follows:

1. The Patriot Act allows the U.S. authorities to make use of the already existent tools to investigate drug trafficking and organized crime - this is relevant in a context in which the investigation tools to be used on terrorists were limited. Senator Joe Biden explains: "The FBI could get a wiretap to investigate the mafia, but they could not get one to investigate terrorists. To put it bluntly, that was crazy! What's good for the mob should be good for terrorists" (Website of the U.S. Department of Justice).

The implementation of this provision is helpful in four instances. In this order of ideas, the Patriot Act allows the authorities to:

conduct investigations without tipping off the terrorists followed use surveillance in the investigation of more acts of terrorism follow sophisticated terrorists, used to eluding the police force and evading detection, and allows investigators to request and obtain business records in the cases linked to national terrorism

2. The Patriot Act enables superior levels of communication between authorities and other federal institutions, so that they can better 'connect the dots' - prior to the act, the law enforcement, the intelligence and the national defense agencies were prevented from sharing information. The act removes this prohibition, making it as such easier for the investigators to identify and apprehend terrorists.

3. The Patriot Act upgraded the U.S. legislation to also reveal new technologies and threats - prior to the act, the investigators were forced to fight crime using outdated technologies; the act ensured the replacement of these technologies with newer and better ones, further increasing the authorities' chances of finding and apprehending terrorists. This feature is useful in two major instances:

investigators are now able to get warrants in any location where they suspect terrorist activities occur; prior to the act, they were limited by district jurisdictions and the bureaucracy generated unnecessary delays hacking victims are able to require assistance from the authorities and these will be able to track down the hacker who is attacking the citizen's home or office computer

4. Finally, the Patriot Act implements harsher punishments for those involved in terrorist activities - this comes to state that not only the terrorist act is to be punished, but also those who support it. Basically, the new legislation:

forbids the sheltering of terrorists improves the laws relative to the crimes likely to be committed by terrorists increases the penalties on conspiracy convictions introduces punishments for bioterrorists and terrorist attacks on mass transit systems (Website of the U.S. Department of Justice)

4. Controversy

The main fault of the Patriot Act is that it does not respect the United States Constitution. To better explain, the act is long and complex and strives to regulate a multitude of issues. However, one has to consider that it was passed in only 45 days and immediately after 9/11. Foremost, the debate on voting it was barely existent. This basically means that the document could be biased by the feelings of sadness, anger and frustration following the terrorist attacks of September 2001.

The disclaimers of the act argue that it gives the authorities the freedom to retrieve personal information on the American citizens, without their consent or even knowledge. "There are significant flaws in the Patriot Act, flaws that threaten your fundamental freedoms by giving the government the power to access to your medical records, tax records, information about the books you buy or borrow without probable cause, and the power to break into your home and conduct secret searches without telling you for weeks, months, or indefinitely" (Website of the American… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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