USA Patriotic Act

The USA Patriotic Act is a legislation that was enacted with a view to ensuring that the countrys fight against terrorism was boosted. The act provides the for law enforcement agencies the right to treat suspects of terrorism in a way that is extra-judicial, and more specifically by engaging in areas that greatly affect and compromise the privacy of the suspects. This paper discusses the USA Patriotic Act in detail, pointing out its main provisions. Finally, it discusses the impacts that the Act has had and continues to have on the privacy of the people, especially those suspected to be terrorists or those who are immigrants.

Ever since the 911 terrorists attack this country has worked tirelessly to do all it can to not only minimize the incidence of terror acts but also to ensure that suspects of terrorism are apprehended  and that their accomplices are pursued wherever they are. It is for this reason that this country has been passing laws aimed at ensuring efforts to fight terrorism - both international and domestic - are boosted (Ball, 2004). While the Combating Terrorism Act of 2001, passed just three days after 911, is perhaps the most popular legislation ever enacted after 911, many more laws have come into being to strengthen it and to give law enforcers more powers to carry out investigations and intelligence gathering concerning terrorist suspects. One such law is the USA Patriotic Act.

USA Patriotic Act
This legislation, enacted in 2001 just a month after 911 and closely following the Anti-Terrorism Act, was officially signed into law on 26th October (Doyle, 2002). It was meant to ensure that there was a lot more room for law enforcers and criminal intelligence services to legally do their work by expanding widely the powers that they had been given. The name of the Act is actually a contrived acronym standing for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (Solove, 2006). Law enforcement agencies are given power under the Act to search records, telephone and email contacts and other information, all forms of communications, peruse medical records, check financial statements, and  virtually do any search or probation that is deemed important for soliciting relevant information about terrorists or any people that can pose a security threat to the country (Doyle, 2002).

The Act also empowers the Treasury Secretary to carry out any form of financial regulations and restrictions especially of those groups and individuals deemed to be a security threat to the country and more so if such people are immigrants or foreign nationals suspected to have links with terrorist networks (Doyle, 2002). The Treasury Secretary reserves the right  under this Act - to monitor the transaction undertaken by such people with a view to tracing where their finances come from or are destined for, and how this could be affecting their role in suspected criminal activities. The Act also ensures that gathering intelligence on foreigners based in the country is made rather easy, because it is foreigners who pose the greatest threat to the security of the country and its interests elsewhere (Ball, 2004).

In addition, the Act provides for immigration officials, working alone or in conjunction with law enforcement agencies, to detain for unusually longer periods of time or even deport immigrants who are suspected of having links to terrorist activities or of being terrorists themselves (Ball, 2004). Finally, the Act makes the definition of the term terrorism to be expanded to cover domestic terrorism which is also becoming more of a security threat to the country. Thus, it has made it possible for law enforcement agencies to have a wide range of activities to which they can be able to apply their powers (Doyle, 2002). In summary, the USA Patriotic Act aims to do a lot more to prevent and control terrorism at home and abroad by making it legal for certain acts to be carried out by law enforcers and especially criminal intelligencers.

Implications of the USA Patriotic Act
Although the motives of this legislation can be termed as good and so bound to reduce and even totally curb terrorism and terror-related acts in the country, it has come to stand squarely in the way of most people who are not necessarily criminals or terrorists (Wong, 2007). The Act sets a precedence where the basic rights of people are trampled on grossly, especially as far as their privacy is concerned. First of all, the right to search for emails and other communication between people is very degrading indeed. Everyone requires that what one does is subject to a certain level of privacy. The USA Patriotic Act takes way this privacy (Wong, 2007).

This is because emails and telephone conversation will be recoded, listened to again, and this will expose very secret matters that have nothing to do with security. For instance, family bonds and friendships are going to be greatly threatened because what is exchanged between friends and spouses might just end up being in the public domain (Wong, 2007). After all once a third party, be it the law enforcer or not, gets wind of the issue discussed or the information exchanged, then it is as good as public information because such will be used as evidence before courts of law (Solove, 2006). With financial transactions regulated, it will make it possible for the financial positions of people to be known everywhere whether they like it or not. This makes people prone to criminal attacks. Searching for voicemail information is wrong because voice mail is not supposed to be heard by a third party (Solove, 2006).

The USA Patriotic Act greatly tramples on the privacy rights of the people, especially the immigrants, and seeks to expose even personal information that might not necessarily have anything to do with terrorism. As such, the Act is grossly in violation of the countrys constitution which provides for the right to privacy.


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