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Usa Patriot Act

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Essay title: Usa Patriot Act

After the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, a controversial piece of legislation was adopted and passed called the U.S.A. Patriot Act. The title for this bill is an acronym for “the United and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act” (USA Patriot Act).

In the years since the passing of the Patriot Act, there has been much controversy and debate regarding the positive and negative advantages, and consequences of this bill. As a member of the law enforcement community I have experienced firsthand some of the changes the Patriot Act has brought upon this nation. A result of this experience along with information obtained in the studying of this act and consequences, has led me to believe in this bill as a means for fighting terrorism against the United States of America.

The Patriot Act was designed to help law enforcement in the fight against future terrorist attacks. A very important ingredient in this is the gathering and development of intelligence information. A positive advantage of the provisions within the Patriot Act is the expansion of surveillance powers. This allows the federal government to intercept and monitor many different forms of communication in their quest to combat terrorism. An example of this would be the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) development and use of digital intercepting programs such as “Carnivore”. This program allowed the FBI to intercept, record, and organize digital communications such as computer emails. The FBI appeared to have retired the carnivore program in 2002, as they turned to commercial products instead but this provision within the Patriot Act allows for better monitoring of terrorist activities before an attack takes place (Poulsen, 2005).

Another positive advantage of the Patriot Act is the requirement for intelligence sharing among the different law enforcement entities. Information sharing between the federal government and local, and state agencies has been problematic. The federal government operates under a system of security clearances when it comes to the sharing or releasing of secret information, which is not done among the local and state law enforcement communities. This in turn led to a lack of communication between these agencies as the federal government followed their intelligence sharing policies leaving everyone else on the outside looking in. On top of this, the different federal agencies never developed appropriate methods of sharing intelligence information amongst themselves. This provision of the Patriot Act has helped to change this problem, and has now opened lines of communication within the entire law enforcement community. This should result in better intelligence gathering as different law enforcement agencies may develop different pieces of the same puzzle and now can put them all together.

The last positive information resulting from the passing of the Patriot Act in the fight against terrorism is a 2004 report from Attorney General John D. Ashcroft regarding the results of terrorist investigations (Bender, 2004). Within this report Ashcroft pointed out that the provisions within the U.S.A. Patriot Act “have led to charges against 310 individuals and 179 convictions since Sept. 11” (Bender, 2004, para. 2). Although some question these statistics as to whether they fully represent charges and convictions of terrorism, I believe this is positive information that efforts are truly being made to ensure the events of Sept. 11 are not repeated.

Speaking from a civil liberties perspective, many provisions within the Patriot Act clearly detract from basic civil liberties we have come to enjoy in this country. One of the most disturbing of these provisions would have to be the expansion of surveillance powers. Within this provision as mention before in this writing, the federal government is freer to intercept and gather different forms of communication. This is clearly an invasion of privacy, and therefore concerning as to the fourth amendment rights of the U.S. Constitution. Along with this expansion of surveillance powers is the “sneak and peek provision” (The USA-PATRIOT Act and the American response to terror; panel discussion, 2002). During a discussion panel in 2002, David E. Suchar discussed this provision stating the “sneak and peek provision, which allows the government to conduct secret searches of anyone, including citizens, without notifying the person that they have a search warrant and that the search is authorized”. Suchar further stated this provision is “a very broad standard that probably could be met in a tremendous number of cases and not limited to fighting terrorism in any way, shape, or form” (The USA-PATRIOT Act and the American response to terror; panel discussion, 2002, para. 18). From a civil liberties perspective, the surveillance

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