15 Years Later: The Patriot Act

15 Years Later: The Patriot Act

Fifteen years ago George W. Bush signed the PATRIOT Act Into Law
153
views

On October 26, 2001, George W. Bush signed the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 into law; 15 years ago last Wednesday. Today we know it as the PATRIOT Act. But despite the sound of this act, has it actually made America safer and more secure?

The Patriot Act was designed to be a response to the attacks on September 11, 2001 and the anthrax attacks that followed. The American people were afraid and Congress rushed legislation. The bill was introduced on October 23rd in the House, passed on the 24th and then went to the Senate. In the Senate it passed only a day later. The vote was 98 yeas and 1 nay with one non-vote. 98% approval in a Democratic majority led Senate. An almost unprecedented vote in the U.S. Congress. (The Senate voted 82 yeas and 0 nays when President Roosevelt wanted to declare war on Japan after the attacks on Pearl Harbor.) It is not impossible, but how likely is it that each and every Senator read the entirety of the act within a day? Highly, unlikely as only two amendments were proposed.

Here is how likely it is that every Senator and Representative read it:

Congressman Jim McDermott: “No one read it. That’s the whole point. They wait till the middle of the night, they drop it in the middle of the night, it’s printed in the middle of the night. And the next morning when we come in, it passes.

Congressman John Conyers: “We don’t read most of the bills. Do you really know what that would entail … if we were to read every bill that we passed?” (Fahrenheit 9/11)

So what exactly does the Patriot Act do? Well, the Patriot Act has ten main areas of concern that may give us a hint.

  • Title I: Enhancing domestic security against terrorism
  • Title II: Surveillance procedures
  • Title III: Anti-money-laundering to prevent terrorism
  • Title IV: Border security
  • Title V: Removing obstacles to investigating terrorism
  • Title VI: Victims and families of victims of terrorism
  • Title VII: Increased information sharing for critical infrastructure protection
  • Title VIII: Terrorism criminal law
  • Title IX: Improved intelligence
  • Title X: Miscellaneous

The Patriot Act was a tool George Bush wanted to use in his War on Terrorism. War is defined by Merriam Webster as “a state or period of fighting between countries or groups.” But how can we declare war on an act? Who is the enemy? Anyone that commits terrorism? The War on Terrorism is such a vague term that it allows our governing bodies to expand the war as they see fit. Enhancing domestic security allowed for certain civil liberties to be denied. Surveillance procedures paved the road for the NSA and their mass collection of data from the American people. Border security has not been solved and has driven some to want to build walls and divide nations further instead of working together. By removing “obstacles” to the investigation of terrorism the fourth, fifth and sixth amendments of the Constitution which protect citizens, investigating citizens for any reason of suspicion became easy for government officials to do.

The Patriot Act was passed with built in expiration dates for certain provisions. However, in 2005 parts of the Act were renewed by Congress and then the President. In 2011, President Obama resigned provisions of the Act into law once again, these provisions expire in 2019. The provisions he signed into law are the Roving surveillance authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and the “Lone wolf” provision which states “a target can be considered an ‘agent of a foreign power’ without any evidence that they are acting with a group” (American Bar Association). A target can be considered a foreign agent without ANY evidence; let that sink in.

In 2001, after the Patriot Act passed, government officials were able to monitor and search medical and financial records of citizens. The Constitution Center wrote “As Americans, we’re torn – as our Founders were – between a need for security and a commitment to our liberties. Have we found the right balance? We look to the Constitution for the answers. But the Constitution depends on us as much as we depend on it.” Today this still applies just as much as in did 15 years ago.

My issue with the Patriot Act is not with the intent of it, to protect Americans from terrorists, but instead with how the government applied it to Americans in cases where it did not have any relevance. Here are some examples:

Adam McGaughey, the webmaster of a fan site for the television show Stargate SG-1, was charged with copyright infringement and computer fraud. The FBI used a provision of the Patriot Act to obtain financial records from the site's ISP, internet service provider. In no way were this man’s actions related to terrorism. Yet the government used the act to to obtain information when typically, they would not be permitted to do so. All for copyright infringement. The end result was someone getting punished for a crime, but that means to achieve that end are unjust, something we do not want in our system of government.

The New York Times reported that in 2003 the Patriot Act was being used to investigate potential drug trafficking without probable cause (New York Times). Article One of the U.S. Constitution states: “No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed” (Cornell University). This means that Congress cannot pass a law which deems a specific person or group guilty and then punish them. A law cannot be applied retroactively. By prohibiting an ex post facto law, literal translation is after the fact, it means that the US Congress cannot make any act a crime after the time when that act has been committed. This applies to the Patriot Act because of the ability to name certain crimes or acts as acts of terrorism instead of the legal act or minor crime that is actually seen as in the legal system.

Susan Lindauer is an example of another American that has been oppressed by the Patriot Act. Susan was an antiwar activist who was deemed “an unregistered agent of foreign power” under the “Lone wolf” provision (Department of Justice). Unfortunately, the page is no longer available. After battling the FBI and DOJ for 5 years. The DOJ attempted to forcibly medicate her and institutionalize her for psychotic concerns. Then suddenly on January 16, 2009 the Department of Justice dropped all charges and pending investigations against her stating “prosecuting Lindauer would no longer be in the interests of justice.” Four days before the Bush administration would officially leave the White House.

So far, I have only given examples of injustices against Americans under this Act. Not mentioned above are the egregious crimes against humanity committed at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The Bush administration claimed these were prisoners of war but a study done by Seton Hall Law School concluded that “over 80% of the prisoners were captured not by Americans on the battlefield but by Pakistanis and Afghans, often in exchange for bounty payments” (Huffington Post).

Given the examples above of the implications of the Patriot Act, along with Constitutional law and with the general principles of liberty and freedom that American attempts to uphold, I do not support the Patriot Act because of how it has been applied to Americans and internationals. It is important for the American people to be informed about the actions of the officials they have elected and the level of respect those officials have for the civil rights all people. Days before a critical presidential election we reflect on 15 years of the Patriot Act.

Cover Image Credit: MSNBC

Popular Right Now

The Trump Presidency Is Over

Say hello to President Mike Pence.

64848
views

Remember this date: August 21, 2018.

This was the day that two of President Donald Trump's most-important associates were convicted on eight counts each, and one directly implicated the president himself.

Paul Manafort was Trump's campaign chairman for a few months in 2016, but the charges brought against him don't necessarily implicate Trump. However, they are incredibly important considering was is one of the most influential people in the Trump campaign and picked Mike Pence to be the vice presidential candidate.

Manafort was convicted on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to file a report of a foreign bank account. And it could have been even worse. The jury was only unanimous on eight counts while 10 counts were declared a mistrial.

Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, told a judge that Trump explicitly instructed him to break campaign-finance laws by paying two women not to publicly disclose the affairs they had with Trump. Those two women are believed to be Karen McDougal, a Playboy model, and Stormy Daniels, a pornstar. Trump had an affair with both while married to his current wife, Melania.

And then to no surprise, Fox News pundits spun this in the only way they know how. Sara Carter on Hannity said that the FBI and the Department of Justice are colluding as if it's some sort of deep-state conspiracy. Does someone want to tell her that the FBI is literally a part of the DOJ?

The Republican Party has for too long let Trump get away with criminal behavior, and it's long past time to, at the very least, remove Mr. Trump from office.

And then Trump should face the consequences for the crimes he has committed. Yes, Democrats have a role, too. But Republicans have control of both chambers of Congress, so they head every committee. They have the power to subpoena Trump's tax returns, which they have not. They have the power to subpoena key witnesses in their Russia investigations, which they have not.

For the better part of a year I have been asking myself what is the breaking point with Republicans and Trump. It does not seem like there is one, so for the time being we're stuck with a president who paid off two women he had an affair with in an attempt to influence a United States election.

Imagine for a second that any past president had done even a fraction of what Trump has.

Barack Obama got eviscerated for wearing a tan suit. If he had affairs with multiple women, then Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell would be preparing to burn him at the stake. If they won't, then Trump's enthusiastic would be more than happy to do so.

For too long we've been saying that Trump is heading down a road similar to Nixon, but it's evident now that we're way past that point. Donald Trump now has incriminating evidence against him to prove he's a criminal, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is just getting started.

Will Trump soften the blow and resign in disgrace before impeachment like Nixon did? Knowing his fragile ego, there's honestly no telling what he'll do. But it's high time Trump leaves an office he never should have entered in the first place.

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

An Escape Raft From Trump

How a declaration of resistance is really a plot to escape blame

18
views

How does a person come back from being part of a great injustice? I'm not talking about how a person recovers from being a victim of a great wrong, nor am I referring to the process of judging those who perpetrated the act. No, what I want to know is how those who aide and abet such actions, those who collaborate and stand idly by, come back into the fold of civilized society without being held to account.

A few weeks ago there was an anonymous Op-Ed in the New York Times from a senior White House official. The piece caused a great stir because it alleged a great conspiracy within the president's administration by even its most senior members to thwart the worst impulses of the president and keep the nation on a relatively sane track. Much of the coverage has focused on trying to identify the author of this controversial piece or praising those brave souls in the administration who are a part of the resistance. I was among this crowd until I started reading a bit further about this article and what it represented. With that further exploration I came to realize that what I took for a reassuring statement to the American public was actually something much more sinister.

How does a person come back from being part of a great injustice? This is the question that is currently haunting the leaders of the Republican Party as they grapple with the Trump presidency and the taint it casts upon their party. As the increasingly impending likelihood that Democrats will take back Congress and ramp up investigations, not only into Trump himself, but also the upper echelons of his administration and even members of Congress, Republicans are searching for any way to avoid blame before this impending storm of controversy and negative stigma hits.

This is where the op-ed and its cynical ploy comes in to play. While I have little doubt that there is a faction in the White House that attempts to curb the president to some degree, I do not for a moment believe it could be called a resistance or the actions of so-called 'adults in the room.' The point of the Op-Ed was not to give voice to this faction, but to control the narrative of Republicans in the White House, to tell a story about otherwise good people who work for this horrible man, but do it because they are preventing someone worse from coming along and doing something really bad. It's a convincing tale all things considered and its been proven to work in the past. Clichéd as it is to bring up Nazis with the Trump administration, in this particular case it fits, many Nazis after the war told tales of honorable Germans who were only doing things out of their patriotic duty and with the belief that if they didn't carry out orders someone else much worse would. It was convincing enough that thousands of former Nazis never received any meaningful form of punishment and lived out the rest of their days never having to atone for their participation in some of the greatest crimes in human history.

The thing about the 'preventing worse things from happening' argument both then and now is that it is complete and utter B.S. Many Germans knew what the Nazis were doing was wrong the same way as many Republicans know what Trump is doing is wrong, they just don't care because it gets them what they want, which is usually power. After some initial hesitation, Republicans were all too eager to embrace Trump and what he represented like moths to a racist, sexist flame. They endorsed and stood by him on the campaign trail even as his behavior set new lows for conduct, as his supporters unlashed a new hatful undercurrent into the party, and as shocking allegations about his personal conduct came out. Even as president when his capacity to lead has been shown on numerous occasions to be insufficient for the office, and his past activities are being revealed as startlingly criminal in nature, they stand by and affirm their support until the end.

Such stubborn loyalty might be commendable if it wasn't to such a horrible man who does such horrible things, except for that fact that it is illusionary. Republicans loyalty to Trump only lasts as far as it brings them power. And now that Trump's star is starting to fall and the voters are preparing to make their displeasure clear at the ballot box, they are seeking to distance themselves from him as fast as possible. The op-ed is simply the first step, to introduce the idea that Republicans were never that invested in Trump in the first place and were always present in opposing him, just not in any open or accountable way. They hope that their efforts coupled with the public's intense dislike of Trump and his close cohorts will allow history to repeat itself and they can get away scot free without their involvement ever coming to light.

We as the American people need to stop this narrative right here at the start and recognize it for what it is, a cynical ploy by a bunch of greedy, corrupt cowards trying to save their own skin as their boss takes the fall. We cannot allow them to succeed in this; we cannot allow them to escape justice. In the name of all those that have been harmed by this administration, in honor of all that has been endangered by their lust for power, they must be held accountable.

Related Content

Facebook Comments