Manypeople often ask themselves just what precisely is the Patriot Act?What are the constitutional implications of this Act? To answer thesequeries, we will first have a preamble of what the Act involves. Onthe 26th of October, 2001, George W. Bush enacted the USA Patriot Actin reaction to the terror attacks that transpired on the 11th ofSeptember, 2001 (Collins, 2002). The Uniting and StrengtheningAmerica by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept andObstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, simply referred to as the U.S.A.Patriot Act, focuses majorly on increasing the powers of various armsof the government. Specifically, it intensifies the powers of theDepartment of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as well as otherfederal agencies handling domestic and international securitysurveillance (ibid).
ThePatriot Act was enacted to lift all the barriers that previouslylimited law enforcement, defense, and intelligence agencies fromgaining access to, and sharing reliable information regardingpotential terror threats. Gaining access to such information promptlyis imperative for the agencies to identify and neutralize impendingterrorist threats both within and outside the United States (Banks,2004). In this paper, we shall learn more about the Patriot Act, itsobjective, and the constitutional implications of the clauses coveredin the Act. Additionally, I will discuss why I believe that this Actis viewed the same by the court, correction, and law enforcement. Tobegin with, we will have a deeper analysis of the Patriot Act byshedding some light on its elementary building blocks (titles) in thesubsequent section
ThePatriot Act Titles
Accordingto Osher (2002), the primary objective of the Patriot Act is toheighten domestic security by sanctioning the sharing of sensitiveinformation within different arms of the government in theprevention of foreseen terror attacks and the examination of terrorincidences. is comprised of ten categories, alsoknown as "titles," including:
Category 1: This title focuses on heightening internal security against acts of terror. It also expresses the sense of the Congress to condemn the discrimination against Muslim and Arab Americans (Rackow, 2002).
Category 2: This title posits enhanced procedures of security surveillance. This title grants authority for oral, wire, and electronic monitoring of information handling and sharing between federal officials in matters of counterintelligence or foreign intelligence (ibid).
Category 3: Concerned with anti- money-laundering activities to avert the financial support of terror gangs. Employing this title, Congress directs the Secretary of the Treasury to institute systems through which banks can identify and freeze illegal activities that are alleged to support terror groups.
Category 4: Concerned with border security. This title requires the Attorney General to report to Congress on matters regarding how the "muscles" of these federal security and intelligence agencies can be expanded in the processing of visas and consequently, identification of terrorists (Whitehead & Aden, 2001).
Category 5: Concerned with the removal of obstacles in terrorism investigations. Through this title, Congress permits federal agencies to conduct physical searches and surveillance of suspected terrorists to prevent attacks, sabotage, and clandestine intelligence activities.
Category 6: Concerned with the victims of terrorism and their families. This title addresses how the victims of terror and their families are supposed to be handled during, and after a catastrophe.
Category 7: Concerned with the increased sharing of information between federal agencies. Congress, in this category of the Patriot Act, highlights the need to share terror information between different institutions of the federal government (Rackow, 2002).
Category 8: Concerned with the laws addressing terror criminality. Congress, in this clause, dictates the laws and regulations regarding the processing of terror suspects in the United States` justice system.
Category 9: Concerned with improved intelligence in the United States.
Category 10: Miscellaneous.
ConstitutionalImplications of the Patriot Act
Itis the opinion of Whitehead and Aden (2001) that the Patriotic Acthas thrilling legal consequences. One, the Patriot Act permitsfederal agents to monitor electronic communications, which includeconversations made over wireless phones and broadband connectivity(emails, Whatsapp) without much oversight. Whitehead and Aden (2001)continue to explain that the Patriot Act also allows the governmentto seize business records of telecommunication companies and internetservice providers without providing an explanation of the exact usageof the information gathered. For that reason, the Patriot Act,according to its spirited critics, invades personal privacy. This isbecause the different government agencies are gathering andprocessing electronic data from people across the globe without proofof whether the information gathered is relevant to any terrorisminvestigation case or not (Osher, 2002). Issues surrounding the dataprivacy rights of the citizens of the United States were heightenedwhen Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor, leaked sensitive informationsubstantiating that the agency was using the law to justify itsinvasion of the privacy of millions of Americans. In as much as thePatriot Act was hastily enacted to cushion our country from acts ofterrorism, its opponents claim that its usage induces an invasion ofpersonal privacy and that it limits the freedom of expression bydiscouraging free speech. The fact that state intelligence andfederal agencies can wiretap or intercept any cellular phone raisesthe controversial issue of personal privacy (ibid).
Thesecond constitutional implication of the Patriot Act is stillcentered on the same fact that it threatens the elementary libertiesof all people residing, or coming into the United States (Collins,2002). The fourth title of the Patriot Act permits federal lawenforcement, security, and intelligence agencies to determine theperson that is allowed to come into the United States or not on thegrounds of safeguarding the safety of the nation. Therefore, thePatriot Act permits the different federal security and intelligenceagencies to gain access to personal data, so as to compare them witha list of suspected terrorists. It is the opinion of Banks (2004)that this threatens, to a great extent, the liberty and freedom ofMuslim and Arabic Americans because most individuals judge them fromtheir physical appearances.
Additionally,you would argue that the fifth title of the Patriotic Act infringesthe Fourth Amendment that protects individuals from unreasonablesearches and seizures (Jaeger, Bertot, and McClure, 2003). ThePatriot Act permits federal agencies to search and seize "tangibledata" from terror suspects devoid of a court`s search warrant. According to Banks (2004), the blanket constitutional implication ofthe Patriotic Act is that it has occasioned erosion in our mostelemental right-the right to protection from government intrusioninto our private lives. Jaeger, Bertot, and McClure (2003) continueby noting the fact that the Patriot Act will create a generation ofyounger Americans who are habituated to the degeneration of the Billof Rights! The question that begs is how did Congress enact andimplement an Act with so many arguable implications? The narrativebehind the enactment of the Patriot Act is exceptional. As statedearlier, the Patriot Act was engineered as a legislative response tothe September 9/11 terror attacks. The 340 page Patriot Act wassigned by President George W. Bush in Washington DC within forty-fivedays of its proposition by the Department of Justice.
Tosafeguard the sanctity of the sovereignty of the United States,Congress spotted the urge to bypass the Fourth and First Amendmentsconstitutional stipulations by allowing federal agencies to accessand share personal electronic data of millions of people in theUnited States and the whole world (Rackow, 2002). Since the PatriotAct was enacted in urgency, many opponents argue that Congress didnot consider the implications of the Act which explains why it hasbeen challenged by law experts all the way to the United StatesSupreme Court (ibid). However, despite all these critical remarksabout the Act, the law is still in play evidenced by Obama`sadministration`s resilience to conform to it. The Patriotic Act wasput into play to safeguard the security of our country from bothinternal and external threats, which it has successfully managed toprotect albeit there have been cases of terror activities in spiteof its presence.
Perspectivesof the Court, Correctional Institutions, and Law Enforcement on thePatriot Act
Toexplain why I believe that these three arms of the American criminaljustice system perceive the same of the Patriot Act, I will create ahypothetical scenario depicting the three parts of our justice systemas crucial building components of a stabilized manufacturing system.The entire production system is the United States, whereas theconveyor belt is just but one portion of the manufacturing system(just like the existence of many arms of the federal government). To"improve" the system, one has to improve all the aspects ofthe system. Applying this hypothetical situation to the Patriot Act,the United States is an optimally operating machine before theSeptember 9/11 terror attacks.
Atthis instance, the normal functioning of the machine (United States)is blitzed by an external force. As such, the previous state of“normal” functioning has been negatively affected by an externalforce (terrorism). To prevent such incidences from recurring, as amachine owner (president), one has to make sure that the problem thatcaused the breakdown is addressed. In reaction, the President of theUnited States, just like a machine owner, enacted the Patriot Actafter the 9/11 terror attacks to safeguard his territory fromexternal forces. Terrorism is the trigger of the legislative responseof the United States because it coerced Congress into passing thePatriot Act (Collins, 2002). To confine terrorism, the United Statesdecided to lift the laws that initially barred federal agencies fromaccessing, analyzing, and sharing sensitive personal data without theconsent of the affected parties. Congress set out the ten cleartitles of the Patriot Act to heighten the level of security withinour borders which have proven effective in the reduction of tensionand fear in many Americans because they know the state has theirbacks covered by security agencies.
Thesethree arms of the Criminal Justice System of the United States viewthe Patriotic Act from a related perspective. I am saying thisbecause if there were to different perceptions of the Patriot Actacross these three arms of the United States Justice System, then thestreamlined process of terror investigation, prosecution, andincarceration of terror suspects would still be a plan. As a matterof fact, Obama`s administration saw the need to hasten the process ofalleged terrorist prosecution in the courts, and subsequently theirincarceration, because the presence of these individuals in thestreets of the United States would pose a significant peril. If lawenforcement officers, the courts, or correctional facilities haddifferent perspectives regarding the Patriot Act, then we would nothave witnessed Guantanamo being set aside as a holding facility forterrorists.
Additionally,we would not have intelligence that in the recent past has proven tobe efficient in averting terror attacks. Furthermore, if the lawenforcement agencies had a different opinion regarding the PatrioticAct, then the various federal agencies would not harmoniously beundertaking the processes of tracking down and eliminating thepremiers of the terrorists and their foot soldiers. As such, therewould have been discord in the way the United States handles cases ofterror which is evidently not the case. Hence, it is evident thatthe law enforcement, courts, and corrections arms of the criminaljustice system of the United States view the Patriotic Act the sameway, evidenced by their interdependence and interconnectedness indealing with international terror suspects and incidences
Inconclusion, the Patriotic Act was enacted after the 9/11 terrorattacks. We have learned that the Act was passed to fortify thesecurity of the United States. The enactment and implementation ofthis Act has elicited mixed reactions, especially its infringement ofthe Fourth and First Amendments. However, even though the act hasconstitutional implications, it is still in play and I believe thatit has done more good than harm to the United States as a sovereignstate. Thanks to the heightened level of intelligence collection byour law enforcement agents, court processes, and correctionalincarceration, occurrences of acts of terror have been contained inthe United States. The collaborative efforts of the courts, prisons,and law enforcement officers, who view the Patriotic Act in the sameway, have contributed to the reduction of terror cases in the UnitedStates. Opponents argue that we have been attacked with the Act inplay, but the situation would have been worse had there been lessheightened security measures in our country. Therefore, it becomesapparent that even though the Patriotic Act has constitutionallycontroversial implications, it has done more good than harm to theUnited States all because law enforcement, the courts, andcorrectional facilities view the Patriotic Act from a similarperspective.
Banks,C. P. (2004). Protecting (or destroying) freedom through law: The USAPatriot Act’s constitutional implications. InAmerican National Security and Civil Liberties in an Era of Terrorism(pp. 29-70). PalgraveMacmillan US.
Collins,J. M. (2002). And the walls came tumbling down: Sharing grand juryinformation with the intelligence community under the USA PatriotAct. Am. Crim.L. Rev., 39, 1261.
Jaeger,P. T., Bertot, J. C., & McClure, C. R. (2003). The impact of theUSA Patriot Act on collection and analysis of personal informationunder the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. GovernmentInformation Quarterly,20(3), 295-314.
Osher,S. A. (2002). Privacy, Computers and the Patriot Act: The FourthAmendment Isn`t Dead, But No One Will Insure It. Fla. L. Rev., 54,521.
Rackow,S. H. (2002). How the USA Patriot Act Will Permit GovernmentalInfringement upon the Privacy of Americans in the Name of"Intelligence" Investigations. Universityof Pennsylvania Law Review,150(5), 1651-1696.
Whitehead,J. W., & Aden, S. H. (2001). Forfeiting enduring freedom forhomeland security: A constitutional analysis of the USA Patriot Actand the Justice Department`s anti- terrorism initiatives. Am.UL Rev., 51, 1081.