Essay about The Patriot Act and American Libraries

Essay about The Patriot Act and American Libraries

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On September 11, 2001, Americans across the country watched in horror as events unfolded in New York City, Washington D.C., and a farm field in Pennsylvania. Islamic terrorists, associated with Al-Qaeda, had successfully carried out attacks on United States targets. They were allegedly acting in retaliation for America’s support of Israel, involvement in the Persian Gulf War and continued military presence in the Middle East. (history.com) News coverage of the events continued for days, but little thought was given to the long-term consequences the actions of this group of men would have on the lives of Americans. Almost immediately, our government enacted laws intended to provide for the safety and security of this country and its people. One of those laws, titled Uniting and Strengthening America By Providing Appropriate Tools Required To Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA Patriot Act) was passed in October 2001. On the surface, the Patriot Act appears to address issues associated with maintaining the safety and security of the United States. There are, however, provisions of this law that affect every American in ways that would not have been imaginable prior to September 11, 2001. Thankfully, there are groups of individuals who have dedicated themselves to challenging these provisions and protecting the right of privacy and intellectual freedom.
Prior to September 11, 2001, there were laws already in existence that allowed the government to monitor the activities of American citizens. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed in 1978, was initially enacted to establish procedures for physical and electronic surveillance and collection of foreign intelligence information (it.ojp.gov). This law crea...


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...speech on a political website. (www.aclu.org) Initially, when these letters were received the person responsible for gathering the information was limited in who they could discuss the matter with. Through the efforts of individuals and organizations such as the American Library Association, revisions have been made to these provisions of the Patriot Act. Both of these provisions were originally subject to “sunset” which would allow them to expire unless expressly re-authorized by Congress (ila.org). In March, 2006, legislation was passed that permits a recipient of a NSL to consult a lawyer and seek judicial review of the letter’s validity. The FBI may still “gag” recipients indefinitely, but it must certify that a need for secrecy exists (Nielandt). Section 215 was reauthorized in 2011 until 2014 and section 505 was made a permanent federal statute (ila.org).

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