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Renewal of the USA Patriot Act - Essay Example

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In the paper “Renewal of the USA Patriot Act,” the author discusses the USA Patriot Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush. Passed by wide majorities in both the House and the Senate, it added to the government’s counterterrorism powers…
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Renewal of the USA Patriot Act
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The USA Patriot Act provided law enforcement and intelligence agencies with basic tools needed to fight and win the war against terrorism. It provided new authority to the Justice Department and the FBI to monitor alleged terrorists or their associates and provided legal sanction for increased information-sharing between criminal investigators and intelligence agencies. It has expanded the government's surveillance and prosecutorial powers against suspected terrorists, their associates, and financiers.
The act allows the government to obtain warrants to monitor and search suspects without meeting previous standards of probable cause, in any criminal investigation, whether related to terrorism or not. As a result, some searches that would have been unreasonable before September 11 are now legal and some significant information will be shared by various law enforcement agencies that otherwise would not have been shared.
NEGATIVE OUTCOMES
In December last year, Senate rejected the reauthorization of several provisions of the USA Patriot act. They reasoned that the nation's top anti-terrorism law was infringing too much on American's privacy. Critics have attacked Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows a judge to issue an order authorizing investigators to seize any tangible item related to foreign terrorism, including personal documents such as bank statements, medical records, and library records. The act was deemed as an assault on American civil liberties. In its war on terrorism and crime in general, the U.S. government authorized invasions of privacy and has weakened the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution which states:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Democrats had threatened not to renew the Patriot Act at all, claiming that it encroaches upon the civil liberties and privacy of suspected terrorists. They were concerned that suspected terrorists are not given enough rights when being investigated by the FBI. In December 2005, Democratic members of Congress leaked confidential information to the press regarding a directive by Bush in 2001 authorizing the National Security Agency to intercept international phone calls and emails coming in and out of the U.S. under suspicion for ties to terrorism (Alexander).
By weakening Fourth Amendment rights, the Patriot Act could increase security against crime and terrorism, but could also reduce individual liberty and privacy.
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