On November 14, 2001 President George W. Bush signed the USA PATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (I kid you not)) Act into law and the United States entered a new era in law enforcement and civil liberties. The law was passed in response to the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Many argue that the law is essential to safeguard the lives of America's citizens while others hold that it is an unforgivable breach of civil liberties. The bill was first proposed on September 24, 2001 by the Bush administration. The following is a brief summary of some of the major points of the bill:

  • Grants broader authority to law enforcement officials in regard to conducting digital surveillance such as wire taps and email monitoring.
  • Allows federal authorities to conduct searches without informing those being investigated, which is normally standard procedure.
  • Lays the basis for broader cooperation between the FBI, CIA, NSA and INS in criminal investigations, involving the CIA and NSA in domestic issues on an unprecedented scale.
  • Allows for labeling of vocal protestors as "domestic terrorists". Activities which could brand these groups as domestic terrorists have already been taken by groups such as Operation Rescue, the Earth Liberation Front and Greenpeace.
  • Grants the FBI access to business, personnel, medical, travel, library and educational records without the consent of the business or the individual.
  • Allows law enforcement officers to side-step the requirement for a search warrant if it "may seriously jeopardize an investigation".

The bill passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 357-66. It passed in the Senate on the following day by a vote of 98-1. The only Senator to vote against the act was Russ Feingold, a Democratic Senator from Wisconsin. The following passages are excerpts from his speech on the Senate floor in response to the bill:

"I have approached the events of the past month and my role in proposing and reviewing legislation relating to it in this spirit. I believe we must we must redouble our vigilance. We must redouble our vigilance to ensure our security and to prevent further acts of terror. But we must also redouble our vigilance to preserve our values and the basic rights that make us who we are.

The Founders who wrote our Constitution and Bill of Rights exercised that vigilance even though they had recently fought and won the Revolutionary War. They did not live in comfortable and easy times of hypothetical enemies. They wrote a Constitution of limited powers and an explicit Bill of Rights to protect liberty in times of war, as well as in times of peace.

There have been periods in our nation’s history when civil liberties have taken a back seat to what appeared at the time to be the legitimate exigencies of war. Our national consciousness still bears the stain and the scars of those events: The Alien and Sedition Acts, the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, the internment of Japanese-Americans, German-Americans, and Italian-Americans during World War II, the blacklisting of supposed communist sympathizers during the McCarthy era, and the surveillance and harassment of antiwar protesters, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., during the Vietnam War. We must not allow these pieces of our past to become prologue."

"Was it not at least partially bias, however, when passengers on a Northwest Airlines flight in Minneapolis three weeks ago insisted that Northwest remove from the plane three Arab men who had cleared security?

Of course, given the enormous anxiety and fears generated by the events of September 11th, it would not have been difficult to anticipate some of these reactions, both by our government and some of our people. Some have said rather cavalierly that in these difficult times we must accept some reduction in our civil liberties in order to be secure.

Of course, there is no doubt that if we lived in a police state, it would be easier to catch terrorists. If we lived in a country that allowed the police to search your home at any time for any reason; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to open your mail, eavesdrop on your phone conversations, or intercept your email communications; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to hold people in jail indefinitely based on what they write or think, or based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good, then the government would no doubt discover and arrest more terrorists.

But that probably would not be a country in which we would want to live. And that would not be a country for which we could, in good conscience, ask our young people to fight and die. In short, that would not be America.

Preserving our freedom is one of the main reasons that we are now engaged in this new war on terrorism. We will lose that war without firing a shot if we sacrifice the liberties of the American people.

That is why I found the antiterrorism bill originally proposed by Attorney General Ashcroft and President Bush to be troubling."

"In the play, "A Man for All Seasons," Sir Thomas More questions the bounder Roper whether he would level the forest of English laws to punish the Devil. "What would you do?" More asks, "Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?" Roper affirms, "I’d cut down every law in England to do that." To which More replies:

"And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast . . . and if you cut them down . . . d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake. "

We must maintain our vigilance to preserve our laws and our basic rights.

We in this body have a duty to analyze, to test, to weigh new laws that the zealous and often sincere advocates of security would suggest to us. This is what I have tried to do with this anti-terrorism bill. And that is why I will vote against this bill when the roll is called.

Protecting the safety of the American people is a solemn duty of the Congress; we must work tirelessly to prevent more tragedies like the devastating attacks of September 11th. We must prevent more children from losing their mothers, more wives from losing their husbands, and more firefighters from losing their heroic colleagues. But the Congress will fulfill its duty only when it protects both the American people and the freedoms at the foundation of American society. So let us preserve our heritage of basic rights. Let us practice as well as preach that liberty. And let us fight to maintain that freedom that we call America.

I yield the floor."

There are many, such as myself, who feel that this act is unjust and that to name it the Patriot Act (thereby immediately ensuring its passage amidst a patriotic fervor) is blasphemous and offensive to the principles our country was founded upon. One can only hope that as time and administrations pass, so too will this heinous law and we can return again to our lives, where we need fear neither attack from abroad or from within.

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
- Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), Letter to Josiah Quincy, September 11, 1773.

Complete Text of Senator Feingold's Speech:

Complete Text of Patriot Act:
http://www.senate.gov/search/index.html - Search for "H.R.3162.ENR"


Thanks to QXZ, C-Dawg and Simpleton for pointing out the full name of the Act

This is an essay I wrote for school. I know there are many sections in this Act that I did not touch, but there was a limit and it was getting a bit long. So this is just a touch on the large, ugly subject of the USA PATRIOT Act (which name was changed for the simple fact that if you don’t pass the patriot act, you obviously aren‘t a patriot.);

Patriot Act, or Paranoia Act?

During the dark, paranoid days following the terrorist attacks against the United States which took place on September 11, 2001, an act was created to grant the law enforcement officials and intelligence agencies to have expanded authority to fight future attacks on U.S. soil and to make available the tools necessary to domestically pursue the Bush administration’s war on terrorism. Loosely titled the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, it is better known as the USA Patriot Act.

The Patriot Act introduced an overabundance of modifications to over fifteen important statutes, which drastically increased the surveillance and investigative powers of law enforcement agencies in this country. Many of the electronic surveillance provisions were proposed before 9/11, however, they were subjected to a large amount of criticism and debate. John Podesta (White House Chief of Staff, 1998-2001) questioned what had changed since then-

“The events of September 11th convinced… overwhelming majorities in Congress that law enforcement and national security officials need new legal tools to fight terrorism. But we should not forget what gave rise to the original opposition- many aspects of the bill increase the opportunity for law enforcement and the intelligence community to return to an era where they monitored and sometimes harassed individuals who were merely exercising their First Amendment rights. Nothing that occurred on September 11th mandates that we return to such an era.”

Attorney General John Ashcroft gave Congress just one week to pass the bill, with no changes. Patrick Leahy (Vt. Democrat), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was able to convince the Department of Justice to concur on some changes, and members of the House began to make significant improvements. To make the process go faster, the Attorney General warned that further terrorist acts were imminent, and that Congress would be held responsible for such attacks if it failed to pass the bill immediately. The bill was then stripped of many revisions and was nearly unanimously passed; Senator Russ Feingold was the only member to object. Feingold was especially concerned with the effects the Act would have on the civil liberties of immigrants. The act was passed in the House of Representatives with a 357 to 66 margin. On October 26, 2001, President George Bush signed the Act, putting it into effect.

What exactly is the Patriot Act? John Ashcroft summarized it to this:

“Prosecutors will seek judicial authority to intercept communications related to an expanded list of terrorism-related crimes such as: the development, possession, or use of chemical or biological weapons; financial transaction with a terrorist government; or providing material support to terrorists or terrorist organizations. Investigators will use ‘roving’ wiretaps to intercept communications and thereby thwart the ability of terrorists to evade surveillance by switching phones or communication devices.”

“Investigators will now aggressively pursue terrorists on the internet. The legislation permits investigators to obtain senders’ and receivers’ e-mail addresses just as it is done with telephone surveillance. Terrorists employ sophisticated technologies to evade detection and the legislation updates the law to the technology. Investigators will use search warrants to obtained unopened voice mail and e-mail.”

What he didn’t say here is that under the Patriot Act, warrants are much easier to obtain, and approves undisclosed search warrants without prompt notification. These conditions are an attack on the Fourth Amendment, which is a protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“New subpoena power will enable authorities to obtain payment information, such as credit card or bank account numbers, of suspected terrorists on the internet. This will allow investigators to identify the terrorist who hides behind a fictitious internet name.”

Through the Patriot act, the FBI is permitted to order any person to turn over, without probable cause or reasonable suspicion, “any tangible things”. These tangible things include library records, e-mails, business records, medical records, and student information, as long as the FBI specifies that the information will be provided in “an authorized investigation”. This is a clear and present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights.

“Investigators will be able to use a single court order to trace a communication nationwide, even when it travels beyond the judicial district that issued the order. The scope of search warrants for unopened e-mail and other evidence will also be nationwide. This improved efficiency will save hours or days in investigations where seconds matter.”
“Law enforcement and intelligence committees will share information on terrorist activities and thus better coordinate their efforts to prevent terrorism.”

Therefore, you could see that the USA Patriot Act was disguised as a instrument to be used against terror, but the government is using it whenever they feel it’s necessary. Mark Corallo, the Department of Justice spokesman, has said that, “The Patriot Act was not meant to be just for terrorism.”

According to a study by Newsweek, the government has used the Patriot Act to conduct searches on 962 American citizens. Of those, two-thirds were in money-laundering cases with no apparent terror connection. This act has a strange resemblance to George Orwell’s 1984, in which the government watched over everything the citizens did.

With such infractions to our Constitution, it is amazing that this Act was passed. What does George Bush have to say about the Patriot Act? “The Patriot Act defends our liberty.” This quotation amused me because it immediately reminded me of Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, “Those who are willing to give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” And we do sacrifice our freedom with the Patriot Act, as I have said before, there are sections and titles in the Act that are direct threats to our Constitutional and privacy rights. Back to George Bush’s quote; whose liberty does the Patriot Act defend? It looks like just the people who run this country, because everyone is at risk, anyone is a “potential terrorist”.

The Patriot Act is set to expire in 2005, and what really disturbs me is that George Bush has tried to convince (and most likely is still) Congress to renew the law. Not only that though, he wishes to make interminable all of its provisions, as well as approve additional ones.

Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are aware of these threats and in October 2001 sent a letter to all House of Representative’s members, urging the bill’s defeat. In that letter, the ACLU said;

“While the bill contains provisions that we support, the American Civil Liberties Union believes that the USA Patriot Act gives the attorney general and federal law enforcement unnecessary and permanent new powers to violate civil liberties that go far beyond the stated goal of fighting international terrorism.”

Such protests were disregarded.

What is John Kerry’s stance on the Patriot Act? Kerry’s view on the Act may seem confusing, as senator for Massachusetts he voted for the Act, now he is against it. He feels that the Act has been mistreated. John Kerry is quoted as saying:

“I will replace the Patriot Act because the spirit of the law has been abused by the (John) Ashcroft Justice Department. I’ll scale back several provisions to assure our security doesn’t come at the expense of our civil liberties.”
He feels that we must make some changes:
“We must stop indefinitely detaining American citizens and give basic rights to those who are detained. American citizens should have the right to a lawyer and foreign citizens should be given the right to hearings to determine their status.”
“We need more oversight of ‘sneak and peak’ searches to assure strong safeguards on the use of roving wiretaps and seizing of library and business records.”
“We need to use terrorism laws to combat terrorism and not in ordinary criminal cases, or to send the FBI to churches or anti-war demonstrations.”
“We need to mandate regular reporting to Congress of all anti-terrorism activities and follow established protocols to privacy and security.”

One of the only sites that was positive toward the Patriot Act was titled Preserving Life and Liberty, and was run by the government. All of the other sites were either biased against or had non influenced information. But this particular site explains how the “Act Improves Our Counter-Terrorism Efforts in Several Significant Ways”. There are only four reasons depicted (1. The Patriot Act allows investigators to use the tools that were already available to investigate organized crime and drug trafficking, 2. The Patriot Act facilitated information sharing and cooperation among government agencies so that they can better “connect the dots”, 3. The Patriot Act updated the law to reflect new technologies and new threats, 4. The Patriot Act increased the penalties for those who commit terrorist crimes), and within these are subcategories.

What this site also does is cite a couple of lines from the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted…”

I put “all men are created equal” in bold because the Patriot Act contradicts this statement. This Act makes it acceptable for the government to scapegoat foreigners. Particularly those from the Middle East area, who look like they are, or have an Arab or Muslim name. For example, Yusuf Islam (the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens) was barred from America. I also bolded “unalienable Rights” because they refer to the rights printed in the Constitution, which are clearly being violated by the Patriot Act. By the government legalizing this Act, it is taking away our unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

works cited


As we reach the middle months of 2003, the Republican Party is attempting to drum up support in the House and Senate to repeal the clause in the hated Patriot Act that gives it an expiration date. Lead by Bush lackey senator Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah), they are attempting to make the laws granted by the Patriot Act permanent, as opposed to time-constrained. The Act is otherwise due to expire in 2005.

Given that most of the actions made possible by the Patriot Act have secret results, most people will never know whether or not it's working. Yet, the representatives that the voting public put into office look to continue whatever secret results it's producing, at the cost of their own freedom of speech and privacy. As you have no doubt read by now, the Patriot Act gives a wide range of government agencies unprecedented rights to spy on practically anyone they choose. Given that the population of the USA is approaching two hundred and eighty million, and the potential population of terrorists is probably about 0.000000001% of that (probably less), they are effectively giving the government the right to spy on the people that put all of them into office, all in the name of paranoid nationalism. The numerous spy-related agencies in the various branches of the government (CIA, FBI, DHS, NSA, etc.) can therefore do pretty much whatever they want, as there's no longer anything holding them back and they no longer require authorization to carry out their spying, to put someone in prison, to label a person or group a "terrorist threat," to stop peaceful protests against the unconstitiutional powers they now wield, or to attack or villify any nation they please (though this one is mostly left to the president and his cronies).

None of them seem to realize that, under the Patriot Act, what Richard Nixon and his henchmen did at Watergate in the early 1970s, one of the darkest moments in American politics, would be completely legal.

Looking at this from a historical standpoint, the United States is looking more and more like the monster it fears so much with each passing day, and especially with each new "antiterror" law passed. The lawmakers have become so paranoid and obsessed with terrorism, that they're willing, even eager, to pass unconstitutional laws to assauge their unmitigated and irrational fears.

Or so it seems:


1. Characterized by or favoring absolute obedience to authority, as against individual freedom: an authoritarian regime.
2. Of, relating to, or expecting unquestioning obedience. See Synonyms at dictatorial.

It's no secret that most of President Bush's cabinet is made up of former (or even current) corporate CEOs. In true Republican staple diet fashion, almost all of them are affiliated in some way with big business. (Fifteen of twenty-one cabinet members, in fact, though not all of them are oil executives.) This benefits big businesses with almost every law passed, which is really no surprise given that the government currently holds a Republican majority, but still. There are more fit candidates than, say, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has acted as CEO for a number of defense contractors and probably still owns stock in one or two of them. The conquest of Iraq (it can be called no less than conquest) would give the United States (and Great Britain) all the Iraqi oilfields, which would benefit Bush and much of his cabinet, namely Vice President Dick Cheney (former CEO of Halliburton, right up until the 2000 election; since the action in Iraq has begun winding down from high gear, who else but Halliburton would be awarded the management rights to every oilfield in Iraq? Three guesses and the first two don't count), energy secretary Spencer Abraham (who, to date, has received nearly one million dollars in campaign money from General Motors and Ford), secretary of the interior Gale Norton (Ford, BP Amoco, Delta Petroleum, and NL Industries), White House chief of staff Andrew Card (General Motors), and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice (Chevron). Not to mention George W. Bush, himself a failed oil tycoon.

It should be noted that prior to the current war, Iraq has made no aggressive actions towards the United States since the Gulf War ended in 1991. Saddam Hussein is still in power, but apart from occasionally mocking the United States, the only thing he's done wrong that would catch the government's attention is not bending to the United Nations disarmement program. The United Nations has said repeatedly that he most likely doesn't have anything to disarm, anyway. This war is clearly not being waged for any humanitarian objectives. It's about oil, no more, no less. They have it; the United States wants it. Take a good, hard look at the war. What else could it possibly be about?


1. Of, relating to, being, or imposing a form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control over all aspects of life, the individual is subordinated to the state, and opposing political and cultural expression is suppressed: “A totalitarian regime crushes all autonomous institutions in its drive to seize the human soul” (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.).

Also like many totalitarian governments of years gone by, the United States government is increasing its need to have permanent enemies and scapegoats, with the current target being the vague and ever-present "terrorism," and of course Iraq and its ruler, Saddam Hussein. The fact that the Patriot Act gives such broad rights of persecution makes it seem very much like the Red Scare the country endured during the 1950s, when the government pulled out all the stops in its obsessive search for communists in the United States, apparently failing to realize that communism doesn't really work unless you've got a group of several hundred thousand to suppress while in a position of power (and even then, it's really sketchy), and that individual communists (inasmuch as a commune can exist individually) are not a legitimate threat. Likewise in modern times, any terrorists operating within United States borders would have to be painfully aware that attempting anything even remotely considered terrorism is not really going to be effective, or even possible, at this point in time due to the hightened national paranoia and the "extra security" the lawmakers traded for the right to privacy, and privacy is generally required to plot a terrorist act. The Patriot Act has effectively defeated privacy, and since we can't verify whether or not the Patriot Act actually works, it's the threat of Patriot that is probably discouraging potential terrorist more than Patriot itself is. That's probably what the internal rationale is regarding the ridiculous ferver against terrorism; shake but don't stir. Given the current Republican majority in the House, Senate, and cabinet, that is unlikely to change until the current American regime changes, and it seems unlikely that we'll be treated to a premature end to the Patriot Act's effects, unless the current regime is deposed, which is probably just as unlikely as the constitutionality of these stupid new laws ever being challenged, for fear by the challenger of breaking those laws.

The United States is slowly but surely becoming its own professed enemy; a terrorist state. What we are currently doing, domestically and in Iraq, can be called no less. Sooner or later the rest of the world is not going to stand for it any longer, and we'll get what's coming to us. I have never been more ashamed to be called an American.

Presidential Profile: George W. Bush's Cabinet -- http://www.opensecrets.org/bush/cabinet.asp
Your Rights Online: Congress to Make PATRIOT Act Permanent -- http://yro.slashdot.org/yro/03/04/09/1534234.shtml
GOP wants to keep anti-terror powers, broad spying tools would become permanent -- http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/04/09/MN257910.DTL

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.