The Usa Patriot Act : Law Enforcement Authority Essay

The Usa Patriot Act : Law Enforcement Authority Essay

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In a post 9/11 United States, citizens and elected officials wanted to take swift action to both catch the perpetrators of the attacks of 9/11 and work to prevent future terrorist attacks from occurring. This sense of urgency resulted in the USA PATRIOT Act being passed in a matter of weeks following 9/11; being signed into law by President Bush on October 26, 2001 (Epic.org, USA Patriot Act). Because there was such expedience in passing the legislation, there was little debate and some safeguards of civil liberties that are traditionally present. There is no doubt that legislation needed to be passed to address some of the shortcomings of previous laws, however, it is also the responsibility of the government to safeguard civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and ensure checks and balances exist on law enforcement.
The USA PATRIOT Act expanded law enforcement authority to utilize trap and trace and pen register devices. Previously, statute only referred to the collection of numbers dialed on a telephone line and the originating number of a telephone call. However the new language significantly increases the scope of a pen register as “a device or process which records or decodes dialing, routing, addressing or signaling information transmitted by an instrument or facility from which a wire or electronic communication is transmitted” and the scope of a trap and trace device has been expanded to “a device or process which captures the incoming electronic or other impulses which identify the originating number or other dialing, routing, addressing, and signaling information reasonably and likely to identify the source or a wire or electronic communication” (Epic.org, USA PATRIOT Act). This broad language allows law enforce...


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...n only on the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights (Epic.org, USA PATRIOT Act). However, in 2015 this section would end with the passage of the USA Freedom Act. Additionally, the USA Freedom act ended the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of data from phone records of millions of Americans (Jacoby, 2015).
In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks there was an urgency to prevent such atrocities from occurring again. However, many aspects of the USA PATRIOT Act created with this purpose failed to address the necessary checks and balances on law enforcement to protect civil liberties protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. In subsequent years, elected officials have realized some of these shortcomings of the USA PATRIOT Act and have begun to reign in some of the powers granted to law enforcement.

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