Author: Josh Valdez
The USA Patriot Act has been a strategy that enhances domestic security to monitor and track terrorist movements within the borders of the United States. For years, the Criminal Justice system has used specialized search warrants as a “crime-fighting tool upheld by courts nationwide for decades in organized crime, drug cases and child pornography” (US Department of Justice, 2005). According to the Justice Department, the ability to tap and monitor telephone and internet usage of suspects has been a vital role in the strategy to prevent violent attacks. Through the Patriot Act, it allows for “roving wiretaps” to be possible by select federal departments who have reasonable suspension to detect and incapacitate terrorist groups before they are able to successfully carry out their motive.
Because Department of Justice as used such secret warrants permitting such technological eavesdropping to gather criminal evidence as far back as 1928, where law enforcement gathered convicting evidence against a Seattle bootlegger, Roy Olmstead by wiretapping his home (Adams, 2010). Since the Patriot Act was introduced and passed, it not only continued to aid law enforcement in their endeavors to gather evidence but also permitted counter-terrorist agencies to monitor suspects and movements of terrorist organizations. John Ashcroff, who was appointed Attorney General at the time, explained that the Patriot act would allow three things. He stated, “First, it closes the gaping holes in our ability to investigate terrorists. Second, the [law] updates our anti-terrorism laws to meet the challenges of new technology, and new threats. Third, [it] has allowed us to build an extensive team that shares information and fights terrorism together” (US Department of Justice, 2003).
Since the Patriot act, activist groups have had an understandable level of concern about the threats to Civil Liberties and Rights outlined by the First Amendment. Concerns rise that government’s agencies can tap into any phone call or monitor any emails or any websites visited from a citizens’ personal device. Privacy feels threated by the emergence of “sneak and peak” warrants as well as the potential for citizens to be held against their will and not permitted the right to counsel. This heightened security since 9/11 was not an attack on ones most cherished freedoms however, to preserve all freedoms to the American people different policies and procedures have emerged to fight the war on terror.
There are several counter-terror strategies combined within the Patriot Act that I firmly believe will ultimately be for the benefit of the American people only if those in government are transparent and true to those who have given them the power in the first place. The Patriot Act is so much more than wiretapping and monitoring. It allows for a merge of different government departments to begin fighting against terrorism with a unity that has never been so prevalent. It is the ability to seek and destroy all active terrorist groups operating within our borders. It allows for the gathered evidence to stand as convicting evidence in trial. It allows for the ability to monitor money laundering as well as the ability to freeze assets of a suspected organization. The level of information being openly shared between departments will be a crucial orchestrated effort in order to fight against those who want to take away all freedoms outlined and promised by the Constitution. We, as a people, must continually weigh the costs as well as hold the reigns to the increase of government authority to insure that these counter-terrorist strategies are being used in a way that protects the American Spirit that prevails from the words of our founding fathers. We must continually contemplate the words of Benjamin Franklin who once said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” (Department of Government & Justice Studies, 2016)
Adams, William Lee. 2010. “Brief History: Wiretapping.” Retrieved December 10, 2016.(http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2022653,00.html)
Department of Government & Justice Studies. 2016. “The USA Patriot Act.” Appalachian State University. Retrieved December 10, 2016. (https://gjs.appstate.edu/media-coverage-crime-and-criminal-justice/usa-patriot-act)
US Department of Justice. 2003. “Preserving Life & Liberty.” Retrieved December 10, 2016.(http://www.lifeandliberty.gov/)
US Department of Justice. 2005. “Waging the War on Terror.” Retrieved December 10, 2016.(http://www.lifeandliberty.gov/subs/a_terr.htm)