2001 USA Patriot Act is Unconstitutional and Ineffective

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I. Introduction

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks US Congress passed legislation known as the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 commonly known as the USA Patriot Act. This paper will attempt to prove that not only is the USA Patriot Act unconstitutional but many of its provisions do nothing at all to protect Americans from the dangers of terrorism.

While this act made legislative changes that increased surveillance and the investigative powers of law enforcement agencies to protect America from further terrorist acts, the passing of the USA Patriot Act has reduced the privacy rights of Americans and also does not provide for a system of checks and balances that safeguard civil liberties. Terrorism is a serious matter that should not be handled lightly, but the act has gone over the top in trying to stop terrorism. The USA Patriot Act, enacted for protecting America from further attacks, not only does little if anything to protect Americans, but rather undermines their civil rights. The Patriot Act targets not only terrorists, but also the American people which it intended to protect.

This paper will primarily speak of the violations of the First and Fourth Amendments and the lack of checks and balances in relation to the USA Patriot Act.

II. Background

After the September 11th terrorist attacks, America was understandably frightened that this could happen again. Less than a week after the attacks the Bush administration introduced legislation that included items which had previously been voted down, sometimes repeatedly, by Congress. (Surveillance Under the USA Patriot Act)

The Senate version of the Patriot Act, which closely resembled the legislation requested by Attorney General John Ashcroft, was sent straight to the floor with no discussion, debate, or hearings. Many Senators complained that they had little chance to read it much less analyze it before having to vote. In the House, hearings were held, and a carefully constructed compromise bill emerged from the Judiciary Committee. But then, with no debate or consultation with rank-and-file members, the House leadership threw out the compromise bill and replaced it with legislation that mirrored the Senate version. Neither discussion nor amendments were permitted, and once...

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... feel rushed as they did with the signing of this Act. Congress should review some of the terminology in the Act such as the definition of ‘Domestic terrorism’ to ensure we are not inadvertently including innocent individuals under the name of national security.

There should be a system of checks and balances where congress must review the methods the FBI, CIA and other law enforcement agencies are using in relation to wire taps, search warrants etc. Congress must ensure that the intelligence gathered is used in connection with terrorists and not just criminals in general.

States and the private sector should get more involved in security at the airports, banking procedures and surveillance so that the federal government does not have complete control and overstep their boundaries.

In conclusion, the idea behind the 2001 USA Patriot Act was a solid one made in a time of extreme duress and fearfulness. Now that we have had time to readjust and really look at the consequences of this act, it is time to reevaluate and pass into law a modified version to keep in line with what our forefathers believed for our country.

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