Essay Preview: Patriot Act
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The “Patriot Act”
In the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Congress sprang into action. Within a month, U.S. lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the USA Patriot Act of 2001, giving law enforcement and intelligence agents broader authority to fight terrorists operating in the United States.
Signed into law by the President on October 26, the Patriot Act is designed to fight terrorism on several fronts. First, it gives the U.S. government authority to hold foreigners suspected of terrorist activity for up to seven days before charging them with a crime. The legislation also gives investigators the legal right to tap any phone a suspected terrorist might use. The Act also gives complete access to financial records, medical records, and even library records.
In addition to tracking cellular-telephone communication, agents can now subpoena Internet providers to surrender records of e-mails that they judge suspicious. This component of the law was significant, given that the men who hijacked the four planes on September 11 had communicated extensively about their plans via the Internet. The Patriot Act also sanctioned funds to triple the number of border-patrol agents and Immigration and Naturalization Service inspectors along the northern border.
Some of the major areas of contention are as follows Conducting “sneak and peek” searches, which allow law enforcement to enter peoples homes and search their belongings without informing them until long after. Directing a library, bookstore or newspaper to produce “tangible things,” e.g. the titles of books an individual has purchased or borrowed or the identity of individuals who have purchased or borrowed certain books. The Patriot Act authorizes the use of devices to trace the telephone calls or e-mails of people who are not suspected of any crime. American citizens and permanent legal residents investigated and sought information on the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment.
The Patriot Act allows investigators to use the tools that were already available to investigate organized crime and drug trafficking. Many of the tools the Act provides to law enforcement to fight terrorism have been used for decades to fight organized crime and drug dealers, and have been reviewed and approved by the courts.
This Act allows law enforcement to use surveillance against more crimes of terror. Before the Patriot Act, courts could permit law enforcement to conduct electronic surveillance to investigate