Posted: March 18th, 2023
U.S. PATRIOT ACT: WE DESERVE BETTER
Following the events of September 11, 2001, legislation has occurred which has ludicrously removed the rights of citizens instead of serving to bolster and support citizen’s rights in the United States. Furthermore, while the leaders of the United States are speaking of ‘safety and security’ the reality is that at no other time in history has the rights, safety and security of American citizens been so greatly compromised. The U.S.A. Patriot Act was passed in its first form in the “Uniting and Strengthening American by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism’ act six weeks after the events of September 11, 2001.” (Wronkiewicz, 2002, p. 1) One result of this is related in the work of Wronkiewicz who states that resulting from the U.S.A. Patriot Act is what is termed a “tense position” for the library community in its role as “guardians of intellectual freedom.” (2002, p. 2)
STATEMENT of THESIS
The U.S. Patriot Act while being held by certain U.S. leaders to be aggressively attending to the safety and security of American citizens in reality, violates many of the basic human rights of individuals and does not make Americans more, but less secure. In a separate work entitled: “Son of the Patriot Act and the Revenge on Democracy” it is stated that “numerous constitutional rights, such as the First Amendment right to free speech and freedom of assembly, the Fourth Amendment right to be secure from unreasonable search and seizures” as well as others which will be reviewed during the course of this research study. The work of James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. entitled: “Securing the Home Front” states that when it comes to “matters of strategy, thought should always precede action.” (2007, p. 1)
I. The ARGUMENT
The USA Patriot Act has resulted in violations against the civil rights of U.S. citizens and mot importantly has resulted in constitutional violations. The League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area relates in the work entitled: “The Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Act and American Civil Liberties after September 11, 2001” states a belief that “the individual liberties guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States…should not be weakened or abridged.” (2001, p.1) Additionally related is that the major parts of the Patriot Act include the following:
1) Information Collection: Gives federal officials greater authority to track and intercept communications, both for law enforcement and foreign intelligence purposes;
2) Money Laundering: Requires collection and sharing of financial transaction information and vests the Secretary of the Treasury with regulatory powers over U.S. financial institutions concerning suspected money laundering and terrorist activities;
3) Alien Terrorists and Victims: Seeks to further close our borders to foreign terrorists by provisions controlling entry into the United States; and 4) New Crimes, Penalties and Procedures: Seeks to detain and remove terrorists within our borders by creating new crimes, new penalties and new procedures for use against domestic and international terrorists, including increasing rewards for information, lengthening the statue of limitations applicable to crimes of terrorism, authorizing “sneak and peek” search warrants and execution of warrants nationwide and internationally. (League of Women’s Voters of Cincinnati Area, 2001)
II. TROUBLING PROVISIONS of the U.S.A. PATRIOT ACT
Stated to be “…troubling provisions’ of the U.S.A. Patriot Act are the following:
1) Immigrants – the Attorney-General can detain non-citizens on his own say-so without a hearing. The Act authorizes deportation, based on any support to a disfavored group, without any requirement that the support be connected to a terrorist act;
2) Citizen’s Rights – Property can be seized without notice, without a hearing and on the basis of secret evidence. The government is given broad access to sensitive business and financial records of individuals without having to show evidence of a crime. Conversations with a lawyer may be monitored without a warrant or denied altogether and the right to a public hearing upon arrest exists only with the Attorney General’s consent;
3) Privacy – the Patriot Act reduces judicial oversight of a host of investigative measures, including wiretaps, expands the government’s ability to track individuals’ internet use and gives federal officials expansive new powers that are in no way limited to investigating terrorist crimes. It authorizes the government to conduct wiretaps and searches in criminal investigations, without probable cause of a crime, as long as the government claims that it also seeks to gather foreign intelligence. The question arises that these activities are in violation of the Fourth Amendment; and 4) Freedom of Association – Under the Patriot Act amendments to pre-existing emergency powers laws, the President can designate any organization or individual a terrorist, thereby freezing all their assets and criminalizing all transactions by them. Muslim charities have been shut down, some without any charges. One has been designated a terrorist organization and was given no notice or hearing prior to its designation. (League of Women’s Voters of Cincinnati Area, 2001)
III. CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
Timeline is presented by the League of Women’s Voters (2001) and the same has been attached to this study as ‘Appendix a’ for reference. The Timeline presents a ‘Brief History on Restrictions on Civil Liberties’. In essence, this Timeline lists the various highlights of legislation and laws that have served to either support or diminish the civil liberties of the American people. One flaming example of just such civil rights violations occurred recently in Minneapolis and is reported by the ‘Coldsnap Legal Collective’ in Twin Cities, Minnesota which states: “In an outrageous series of state-sanctioned actions, police raided an activist “Convergence Space” and several homes in the past 24 hours, detaining multiple people on extraordinarily flimsy pretences, arresting several, confiscating computers and laptops, and even handcuffing a small child.” (Coldsnap Legal, 2008) Reportedly, the intentions of law enforcement were.”..a chilling effect on dissent prior to the launch of the Republican National Convention…” And the facts are stated as follows:
1) Last night, police raided an activist meeting location. All occupants, including a five-year-old child, were detained, handcuffed, and photographed. Computers were removed from the space, and some personal property (like notebooks) were seized;
2) a private residence on 17th St. was raided this morning and had its door kicked in. The same five-year-old child was again terrorized by armed law enforcement. The police continue to threaten to board up the house unless minor code violations (like a broken door) are remedied;
3) a private residence in St. Paul, occupied by local residents and out-of-town journalists, was raided on the basis of an identical search warrant to the one presented last night at the Convergence Space (it specified “bomb-making materials,” though nothing of the sort was apparently seized); and 4) a private residence on Harriet Ave. was raided and has been threatened with being boarding up. (Coldsnap Legal, 2008, p.1)
New reports are rife with such incidents such as the report published in June 2004 by ‘The NewStandard’ in the article entitled: “Anarchist Home Builders Navigate Police Intimidation at G8 Summit’ in which it is reported that Brunswick, Georgia, a small southern town was under heavy police and military occupation while the President met with other “world leaders on an island just miles from this small, economically struggling town…” (Lindsey, 2004, p.1) This incident involved a group of self-identified anarchists who desired to protest the military occupation in this small town through some worthy and positive form of protest and in this case, it involved refurbishing older homes for unwed mothers. However, as this group of young people went about their work they were harassed by both local police and the FBI. The police first set about enforcing a city code that made a requirement of a permit “for cleaning and repairing the properties, although they were not doing anything resembling construction or making additions to the properties.” (Lindsey, 2004, p.1) Additionally, a backpack was taken from the group of young people for no apparent reason and there were no indications that the backpack was in any form “dangerous or contained anything illegal.” (Lindsey, 2004, p.1) During this incident the Brunswick Police Department is reported to have been instrumental in securing the backpack’s return or so told the group of young people in their communication to reporters however, the Brunswick Police Department denied any knowledge of assisting the young people and the FBI denied any knowledge of the backpack whatsoever and strangely enough the backpack was returned with everything intact plus an extra twenty-dollars. Lindsey (2004) reports that when the FBI was quizzed as to “why law enforcement personnel were interfering with and intimidating the group, Special Agent Tony Alig of the FIB said the activists were not working on houses but were instead hanging protest signs all over the house on Martin Luther King Avenue.” (Lindsey, 2004, p.1) it is troubling to note in the report that these young unarmed, peaceful and positive protesters were doing nothing more than refurbishing old houses and hanging signs and that “The National Guard…is riding in Humvees with machine guns mounted on them.” (Lindsey, 2004, p.1) it is interesting to note that one of the young protestors stated: “[the world leaders] are sitting over there on Sea Island having their little party only talking about how to fix things, but we are over here actually doing something to make things better” — Laurel Paget-Seekins (Lindsey, 2004, p. 1) the U.S.A. Patriot Act has been touted to do just this – or to make things better in terms of security of American citizens and it is certain that the provisions of this Act have served to increase levels of security for American citizens but this security has come with a cost attached and for some Americans the cost is too high and too intrusive upon their basic civil rights. One such instance of the complexity created within the security paradigm are the no-fly lists that have been implemented in U.S. airports since September 11, 2001, has created great complexities for individuals who have been wrongly listed on the no-fly lists and improper and highly questionable airport search of individuals have been scattered across the headlines in new reports. Another aspect of the U.S.A. Patriot Act that has been identified as troubling for American citizens is the practice of placing individuals under arrested and then denying the individuals the basic legal rights to counsel and going so far as to incarcerate these individuals in prison that are located outside of the United States such as the prison located at Guantanamo Bay.
A report published by CNN in July 2003 entitled: “Patriot Act reports Documents Civil Rights Complaints” relates that the Justice Department inspector general office, “found the violations from its regular six-month survey of the antiterror law.” (Bohn, 2003, p.1) in fact, it is stated in this report that Representative John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan states that the attorney general “appears on television nearly every week claiming to protect us, while he simultaneously dismantles our civil liberties and civil rights.” (Bohn, 2003, p.1)
The U.S. Department of Justice – Office of the Inspector General “Report to Congress on Implementation of Section 1001 of the U.S.A. Patriot Act” published in July 2003 relates that complaints received during the reporting period beginning December 16, 2002 and ending June 15, 2003 included the following types and numbers of complaints:
1) number of complaints received suggesting a Patriot Act-related civil rights or civil liberties connection – 1073;
2) Number of complaints outside the OIG’s jurisdiction – 431;
3) Number of unrelated complaints – 370;
4) Number of complaints within the OIG’s jurisdiction – 272 (U.S. Department of Justice, 2003)
The report states that only a fraction of these reports were found to be valid complaints however, validity is relative to the viewpoint of the individual and the manner in which civil liberties are viewed. In other words, what might not appear to be a violation of civil rights from one standpoint looks from another standpoint to be an extreme violation of the individual’s civil rights as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and accompanying Bill of Rights.
A separate CNN report published September 2002 entitled: “Balancing Life and Liberty: Danger to Civil Liberties When Security is Strengthened” relates that “regulations now allow federal agents to eavesdrop on attorney-client conversations for terrorism cases; government officials are told they can deny public access to many documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act.” (Drew, 2003, p.1) it is additionally reported however, that court rulings “have stalled some of the administration’s moves.” (Drew, 2003, p. 1) in fact, in August 2002, it was ordered by two federal judges that the federal government must “release the names of hundreds detained in the terror probe, and they criticized treatment of a U.S. citizen held as any enemy combatant, a classification that allows prosecutors to detain someone indefinitely without bringing charges or allowing access to an attorney.” (Drew, 2003, p.1)
In 2003, the U.S.A. Patriot Act II was implemented and the following facts are stated relating to this ACT:
1) Privacy invasions – This Act ‘dramatically widens the powers of government to invade the privacy of Americans and others living here’ including: (a) Immunity for businesses that voluntarily turn over your information to law enforcement; (b) Extra punishment for use of cryptography– no connection to terrorism needed; – Instant police access to your credit reports upon certification that they are sought “in connection with their duties” — again, with no connection to terrorism needed; (d) Relaxed requirement of specificity for warrants for multi-use devices like PDAs and computers with telephonic capabilities; (e) DNA collected from all terrorism suspects/DNA database information open to all law enforcement;
f) Less judicial oversight of surveillance;
2) More ‘end runs’ around limitations on surveillance and information sharing;
3) Gag orders and increased governmental secrecy;
4) Expanded reach of powers under the control of secret courts; and 5) Not targeted to terrorism. (Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2003)
The conclusion stated in the analysis conducted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation is that the U.S.A. Patriot Act II would “create grave new violations of the privacy of ordinary Americans and place even more unchecked power into the hands of law enforcement and the intelligence community. We’re only beginning to see the effects of USAPA and the administration has not made the case that we are safer as a result of it.” (2003)
SUMMARY & CONCLUSION
The USA Patriot Act I and II have resulted in grave civil rights violations and of the nature that is so severe that most American citizens once becoming aware of these violations are quite shocked and incredible that this could actually happen in the United States of America. From the release of personal information to governmental agencies concerning the library books that one reads to warrantless wiretapping and eavesdropping of U.S. citizens to unlawful imprisonment and denial of basic legal rights of American citizens, the safety and security of the U.S.A. Patriot Acts, while increasing security in some areas has greatly reduced the security of Americans in many other areas of their lives. When the individual looks to the government to provide blanket protection and security, that same individual relinquishes many of their rights, which are protected by the U.S. Constitution leaving many Americans to wonder if the security gained was indeed worth the security lost in the process of governmental protection.
1776 Declaration of Independence.
1787 U.S. Constitution sent to states for ratification.
1790 Naturalization Act limits citizenship to free white men.
1791 Bill of Rights goes into effect.
1800 the Alien and Sedition Acts make it a crime to falsely criticize the government or government officials.
1840’s Mobs hostile to immigrant Irish Catholics burn down a convent in Boston and riot in Philadelphia during a depression.
1860’s President Lincoln suspends Writ of Habeas Corpus (Forbids a government from holding a person in jail indefinitely without a hearing before a judge) several times during the Civil War.
1870 13th, 14th, 15th Amendments and a Civil Rights Act abolish slavery, assure equal rights to all citizens, define “citizen” as anyone born in U.S. Or naturalized, and extend voting rights to African-American men.
1876 Posse Comitatus Act separates civilian and military authority and forbids use of Army to enforce civilian laws.
1882-1917 Exclusion Acts pass against Chinese and other Asians with a “Barred Zone” including most of South Asia.
1917-1918 World War I. Criticizing the war effort and especially the draft is made a federal crime. 250,000 people in the “American Protective League” opened mail, wiretapped phones and incited violence against Germans and German newspapers.
1918 Deportation Act of 1918 allows deportation of radicals; 6-10,000 people arrested in “Palmer Raids” were held without communication or due process and deported.
1920 Voting rights extended to women.
1920’s “Red Scare” – thousands of foreign born, suspected of radicalism, are arrested and sometimes brutalized. Many are deported without a hearing.
1940’s Many Jews fleeing Nazi Germany are excluded under regulations enacted in the 1920’s.
1942 120,000 Japanese-Americans are interned in “concentration camps” and their property confiscated.
1943-1965 Various Immigration Acts repeal the “Exclusion Acts” and specify “preferences,” limiting numbers of Eastern Hemisphere immigrants.
Late l940’s-early 50’s “McCarthy Era” where laws such as the Smith Act punish speech and associational activities with criminal and civil penalties, ostracism and job loss for anyone presumed to be associated with the Communist Party. One could be sentenced to 20 years in prison for studying Marx and Lenin.
1950’s Mexicans are targeted by a government program for deportation.
1960’s Government tracks civil rights activists including Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., feminist organizations, anti-war activists, Black Muslims and others.
1963 Equal Pay Act prohibits discrimination in pay based on race or gender.
1964 Civil Rights Act. Title VI prohibits discrimination in public access; Title VII prohibits discrimination (race, sex, national origin or religion) in employment; Title VIII is a federal fair housing law.
1965 the Voting Rights Act codifies the 15th Amendment regarding race or color and makes it effective. Executive Order regarding affirmative action by government contractors and subcontractors.
1966 ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act).
1967 Architectural Barriers Act requires accessibility in public accommodations (buildings) for people with disabilities.
1960’s and 70’s Vietnam Era. FBI Director Hoover orders surveillance of individuals and groups. The CIA and NSA (National Security Administration) illegally investigate about 7,000 Americans. As part of operation CHAOS, students who opposed the war are spied upon, and the FBI and other agencies share information with the CIA. (This information sharing was illegal at that time.) Acts of domestic terrorism by groups such as the Weathermen and SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army) provoke public concern.
1973 Rehabilitation Act bars government contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on basis of disability.
1980’s Refugee Act, Amerasian Homecoming Act and the Immigrant Reform and Control Act pass. Government denies asylum to Salvadorans and Guatemalans but grants applicants from Nicaragua and Cuba.
1988-1990 Fair Housing Act gives disabled access to multi-family housing and the Air Carriers Act to terminals. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination by employers and requires access to places of public accommodation and business.
1990 the Immigration Act designed to attract the skilled, educated and wealthy and to decrease marriage fraud, increases worldwide number of immigrants allowed to 675,000 per year.
Early 1990’s More than 20,000 Haitians are forcibly returned to Haiti.
1993 First World Trade Center Bombing, New York City.
1994 California Proposition 187 attempts to deny schooling, medical care, etc. To illegal immigrants.
1995 After Oklahoma City bombing, laws pass limiting the role of federal courts in hearing constitutional challenges by death row inmates and other prisoners, and restricting judicial review of many previous decisions regarding legal and undocumented immigrants, thus blocking asylum for persons fleeing persecution abroad and easing deportation of longtime residents for minor misconduct.
1996 the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Law bars illegal and some legal immigrants from social services, varying by state. The Illegal Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act bans some class action suits and allows the deportation of individuals without federal court review. The use of secret evidence is permitted.
2001 Second World Trade Center Bombing, New York City, destroys both towers and a portion of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. USA Patriot Act.
2002 Homeland Security Act. Dept of Immigration and Naturalization requires non-citizen men from 25 nations to register for additional security checks.
Bohn, Kevin (2003) Patriot Act Reports Documents Civil Rights Complaints. 31 July 2003. CNN Law Center. Online available at http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/07/21/justice.civil.liberties/index.html
Carafano, James Jay (2007) Securing the Home Front. The Heritage Foundation. 10 July 2007. Online available at http://www.heritage.org/Press/Commentary/ed071107a.cfm
Drew, Kevin (2002) Balancing Life and Liberty: Danger to Civil Liberties when Security is Strengthened – CNN Law Center 10 Sept 2002. Online available at http://archives.cnn.com/2002/LAW/09/05/ar911.civil.liberties/
Houses, spaces raided throughout the Twin Cities (2008) Coldsnap Legal 30 Aug 2008. Online available at http://coldsnaplegal.wordpress.com/2008/08/30/houses-spaces-raided-throughout-the-twin-cities/
Lindsey, LJ (2006) Anarchist Home Builders Navigate Police Intimidation at G8 Summit. The NewStandard 10 June 2004. Online available at http://newstandardnews.net/content/index.cfm/items/514
Report to Congress on Implementation of Section 1001 of the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act (2003) U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General. 17 July 2003. Online available at http://fl1.findlaw.com/news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs/doj/oig71703patactrpt.pdf
The Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Act and American Civil Liberties after September 11, 2001 (2003) International Relations Committee March 2003. Striking a Balance Between Liberty and Security. League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area. Online available at http://www.lwvcincinnati.org/publications/civillibertiesmarch2003.html
Wronkiewicz, S. (2002) the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act: What Librarians Should Know to Protect the Privacy and Confidentiality of Their Patrons. LIBR 200-02 Libraries and Society – School of Library and Information Science. San Jose University. Online available at http://www.wirewd.com/~svp/S_Wronkiewicz_Libraries_and_USA_Patriot_Act_LIBR200.doc
The U.S. Patriot Act: We Deserve Better
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