The USA Patriot Act: Legal, Yes, But Unethical

The USA Patriot Act: Legal, Yes, But Unethical

The Patriot Act is a constitutional violation.

The United States government is in a constant battle trying to protect its people from terrorist attacks.

As a part of that effort, Congress passed the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act in October of 2001, "arming law enforcement with new tools to detect and prevent terrorism." It is more commonly known as the USA Patriot Act, and it was enacted 45 days after the terrorist attacks on September 11. The Bush Administration promoted the law after four separate attacks were organized in New York City and Washington D.C. The Patriot Act was proposed by Attorney General John Ashcroft and was intended to uncover terrorist activity.

Instead, it started a massive invasion of privacy, unjust detention of immigrants, and violations of the U.S. Constitution. This law gives the government permanent powers that infringe on American civil liberties.

The Attacks

On September 11, members of the terrorist group Al Qaeda hijacked four American planes with intent to crash them. These suicide attacks took the lives of thousands of civilians. Two of the planes, one from American Airlines the other from United Airlines, crashed into the World Trade Center, in New York City. The third was also an American Airlines plane. It crashed into the Pentagon and destroyed the west side. The fourth plane, from United Airlines, was targeting a landmark in Washington D.C., and fortunately was unsuccessful. Passengers on board fought the attackers and took down the plane. It crashed in a field near Shanksville, PA. There were no survivors.

There is not a definition of terrorism that is universally accepted among all scholars, but the one I prefer defines it as the use of violence, or the threat of violence, in the pursuit of a political aim. Terrorism is designed to instill fear within and to intimidate a wider target audience. John Whitehead believes, “extremists who perpetrated the attacks did not want to simply destroy American landmarks of industry and government, they wanted to destroy America as America, to demolish the foundations upon which American culture and freedom are built.”

The case of September 11, is an example of international terrorism. A group from another country invaded the U.S., with intent to cause violence on a large scale, resulting in a mass amount of casualties. There are several terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda, who wish to destroy America and its people. The government has been using newly found power, granted about ten years ago by the USA Patriot Act, to seek out these groups in order to prevent further attacks.

Infringement of Rights

Under the USA Patriot Act, it is now legal for law enforcement officials and government officials to perform searches of homes or offices without giving prior notice. The Patriot Act enhances government surveillance abilities by allowing them to monitor phone conversations of individuals suspected of criminal activity, without probable cause. They also have the right to “overhear private conversations of nonsuspects permitted by the extension of roving wiretap authority to foreign intelligence investigations without proper privacy protections.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but how is this not a direct violation of the fourth amendment, which provides “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated." Listening to private telephone conversations is an example of conducting an unreasonable search, especially to those who are not under suspicion of illegal activity.

This sort of unfair treatment is why the founders of our country drafted the constitution. They fought for the democracy we live in today. They risked their lives to have this freedom, but we were so quick to give it up. Have the priorities of the people changed that much, or does post-attack fear influence the way people vote? The Bush Administration took this as an opportunity to obtain more power. They offered a higher level of safety under some condition, a violation of civil liberties. If the campaign for the USA Patriot Act had not been immediately after 9/11, maybe the people would have voted on it differently.

“Protecting” The People

To gain the support of the people, President George W. Bush gave a speech addressing the fear of terrorism. He claimed that America was facing an “enemy we have never faced.” He described the enemy as hidden but promised to find and conquer them. It is natural to be afraid and to want more protection, but it is important to always weigh the costs. Was it necessary to give our government such a permanent power in a temporary situation? The surveillance of private conversations is a breach of American rights and we the people should not tolerate it.

In addition to the powers granted by the USA Patriot Act, the United States government spends more than any other state on its national defense. In fact, the U.S. spends more than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, the United Kingdom, India, and Germany combined, netting a total of $601 billion. Not including the U.S., these are the top seven countries that invest the most in their national security. “Defense spending (in the U.S.) accounts for almost 20 percent of all federal spending — nearly as much as Social Security, or the combined spending for Medicare and Medicaid.”

Spending more than the next seven countries combined on national security should be enough of a safety measure to ensure reasonable protection. If the United States is spending significantly more than any other country on national security, then there should be no question as to whether or not we could win any given war. Including the war on terrorism. The battle will be costly, and lives will be lost. But we can’t stop every bad man who wants to take down the world and forfeiting our privacy in hopes that we can is, well, foolish.

Is it necessary and essential that the government, on top of the billions of dollars spent on defense, monitors the telephone calls, text messages, and e-mails of every individual? It is impossible to completely stop terrorism. At what point does the opportunity cost of new security implications outweigh the protections offered by them? It is up to the people to make this distinction by voting for what they believe in. If something is unconstitutional, the only way it can be overturned is if we stand together and protest it. The first step in doing this is recognition; it is time to educate the public on this issue so the Patriot Act can be overturned.

The Dirty Truth

There are some sides of the USA Patriot Act that most people are unaware of. For one, it resulted in the unjust detainment of many illegal aliens. To prevent any further attacks, people who could not present proper documentation to prove citizenship were arrested when the law was first enacted. Several hundred immigrants were brought into government custody to be held without bail for an unnoted amount of time. “Under the new law, immigrants ‘certified’ as threats to national security must be held in government custody without bond pending deportation proceedings and removal from the country. Detention could become indefinite for those aliens found to be deportable but whom other countries decline to accept.” This made it legal for large groups of people to be arrested and jailed based on their nationality or race. It made it possible for people who were never proven guilty of committing any crime to fear spending life in prison.

Each of these detainment cases is a breach of the constitution. Holding someone without bail and without issuing them a court date is a violation of the Sixth Amendment. Everyone in the United States has the right to a speedy trial. “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” Since the constitution has been enforced by government and law officials for over 228 years it is prejudice, illegal, and contradictory to make an exception to the constitution simply because this generation of politicians thinks that it is necessary.

In 2002, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the Patriot Act in U.S. District Court in Michigan. They challenged the constitutionality of detaining these aliens for an undetermined amount of time. “Including a class action lawsuit asking a federal district court to declare the detention of a group of Muslim men unconstitutional." The lawsuit is more formally known as Turkmen v. Ashcroft, and the group of Muslim, South Asian, and Arab non-citizens who filed it claim to be victims of racial profiling. The case is still currently being seen by the Supreme Court, 16 years later.

This mass detainment of immigrants was not only a direct violation of the Sixth Amendment but the Fourteenth Amendment as well. The Equal Protection Clause prohibits any state from denying a person, within jurisdiction, the equal protection of the laws. This means every individual must be treated identically as others facing the same legal situation. This clause of the constitution directly prohibits discrimination. Arresting someone based on their nationality or race is against the law and it oversteps basic human rights promised by our founding fathers.

Take a Stand

The day preceding the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, President Bush addressed the country. “We will not allow this enemy to win the war by changing our way of life or restricting our freedoms,” he said. Less than two months later Bush abandoned his word and Congress passed the Patriot Act. This is the era of technology; almost every American has a digital footprint. This law affects anyone that makes phone calls, sends text messages, has e-mail accounts, or uses social media. With such a massive number of people affected every day, it’s important we recognize the unconstitutionality of the Patriot Act. Both the people and the government.

I propose a revision of the USA Patriot Act that will still give the government a strong advantage in the “War on Terrorism,” but one that does not infringe the civil liberties of Americans. This can be accomplished by only investigating those under suspicion of terrorist activity, rather than listening to all telephone calls or reading every message sent. It is completely reasonable to monitor terrorist suspects, in fact, I’d be uncomfortable if we didn’t! However, invading the privacy of innocent people is not right.

Americans should not feel the need to give up rights promised by the constitution for hundreds of years due to fear of terrorist groups. There should not have to be a sacrifice of freedom for protection.

A special thanks to Lorin Ashton for reminding me how important it is to speak up, and for his commitment to enlightening others.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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16 Types Of Friends You Should Dump Right Now

16 types of friends that it's time to drop for your own self-care.

It can be hard to let go of friends, but it's important to take care of yourself and watch out for toxic friendships.

1. That Friend That Can't Do Anything Without Taking Photos

Do you know any people that cannot just enjoy a moment without whipping out their cell phone? How about those people that are always ruining the moment by insisting on taking a selfie? Not every moment needs to be captured on your phone, and chances are this person is constantly taking pictures because they want to impress other people. If it seems like they need to prove to their social media accounts that the two of you hung out, are they really invested in your friendship?

2. That Friend That Can't Stop Texting

These people are actually the worst. Texting is a good way to keep in contact with people, and it's completely okay to casually text when you're with friends. This does become a problem when you're spending time with someone and completely ignore them to text someone else. It's almost like you're not even hanging out with someone if they spend the whole time talking to someone else.

3. That Friend That Only Talks to You For Rides

Sure, you went to high school with them. Sure, you two used to be friends. But now they clearly are not interested hanging out with you, all you do is drive them around. Maybe you should start charging them for gas...

4. That Friend That Constantly Insults You / Is Mean to You

Okay, roasting your friends as a joke can be funny, but it does have its limits. Insulting someone consistently is not friendship, especially if you bring things up that they are insecure about. I feel like people that do this get a lot of excuses made for them, but being mean is not a way to make or keep friends.

5. That Friend That Lies to You

Friendship is based on honesty. Small lies turn into larger lies if you believe them or show someone that you're okay with them lying to you. Lies by omission can become a huge problem in friendships as well; honesty is the best policy. It's better to have no friends than fake friends.

6. That Friend That Talks About You Behind Your Back

If you have a feeling someone is spreading your business, ask someone about it, because they probably are. If one of your friends is talking about others behind their backs, that person is also talking about you behind your back. It's clear that this person is two-faced, and has a habit of dishonesty; don't let that bite you in the ass.

7. That Friend That Doesn't Respect You

If you ask someone not to do something and they do it anyway, they're blatantly disrespecting you. This could be anything, from telling a secret, to posting a photo on Snapchat. If your friend respected you, they'd respect your privacy, your wishes, and your happiness.

8. That Friend That Treats You Like an Option

This title seems really cliche, but when it happens it can be really hurtful. When someone proves to have a certain "hierarchy" of friendship that you fall victim to, try and remove yourself from the situation altogether. If someone is not treating you like a priority, they don't deserve your time.

9. That Friend That Ignores Your Messages

We all know that person who is attached to their phone. When all of a sudden they don't answer their texts, a lot of times we make excuses for them. If you know someone is ignoring your texts, just stop texting them. This person is not worth your time--passive-aggressive BS is never worth your time.

10. That Friend That Never Apologizes / Blames Everything On You

Not apologizing and playing the blame game often go hand-in-hand. People that can't handle being wrong rationalize their actions by blaming their actions on other people. If you have a friend that you happen to get in a fight with and this happens, you should probably end the friendship then and there, as this is a sign of sociopathy. Plus, you'll have to end up apologizing to them if you want to mend the friendship.

11. That Friend That Doesn't Help You When You Need It Most

If something awful happens in your life and you have a friend that refuses to support you, this should be a huge sign that this person is not a true friend. If someone uses the excuse that you're "bringing them down," they "don't know how to help you," or they're "friends with both of you," this person should be kicked to the curb ASAP. A true friend supports you in your time of need and does not leave you all alone.

12. That Friend That is Always Being Negative

We all know someone that is always looking on the negative side of life. People like this are not really fun to be around, and usually having them as close friends is not your best bet. How are they going to support you while going through a hard time? (I am not talking about people with mental health problems--those with mental health problems will know the difference between being negative and being depressed.)

13. That Friend That Comments on Your Appearance

If you have a friend that comments on your makeup, outfit, weight, or anything else that has no bearing on you as a person, THEY ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND. Friends don't care about how you look, and adding rude comments about how you look is one of the best ways to make someone feel like shit. Wear whatever you want to, and if someone says someone, they are not your friend and they are clearly irrelevant.

14. That Friend That is Mean to Other People

You will be judged by those you spend time with, whether you like it or not. If you surround yourself with people who are blatantly mean to others, you will be known as a mean person by association, no matter what kind of person you really are. If you are really a nice person, you may want to drop that friend and find a new group to hang out with.

15. That Friend That Doesn't Support You / Is Jealous of You

This is someone that you're always there for, but they're never there for you, especially when it comes to celebrating your achievements. It may even seem like they're make fun of something that you're proud of until you are not as excited about it anymore. This goes towards how jealous they are--this person is super jealous, it seems, of everything. Maybe it isn't obvious, but disliking people because of their achievements is actually just jealousy rearing it's ugly head. These types of people are important to keep at a distance.

16. That Friend That is Manipulative

You may not even know they are manipulating you, but that is part of the game. They know just what to say / do to get you to do what they want. Most of this happens to be emotional blackmail, because they also know how to get you to tell them your feelings. You may even like this person, but you don't really know if you can trust them, and for good reason. If anyone ever uses something you've done / told them to their advantage, they are blackmailing you--does that really sound like a healthy friendship?

Everyone goes through life falling in and out of relationships, some of which happen to be toxic. It's important not to undermine how challenging it can be to get out of a toxic relationship (whether it's with a romantic partner, friend, family member, etc.), and help people who are going through that process. If you notice something going on, try and talk to the individual that is being taken advantage of. Having sources of support can make all the difference.

"There's no virtue in tolerating toxic behavior."

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Abortion Bans Are Only A Small Part Of The Republican War On Women

These bans expose the Republican Party for what it truly is.


This week, several states passed laws that ban abortion after six to eight weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know that they're pregnant. The most egregious of these is Alabama — the state has banned abortion except for in cases of danger to the mother. Exceptions in the cases of rape and incest were actively voted against by the state legislature. Under the new law, any doctor who is caught giving an abortion would be sentenced to 99 years in prison, and the woman would be charged with murder.

Apart from the fact that this explicitly violates the decision of Roe v. Wade (which is the point), this is only a small part of the slow but steady degradation of women's rights by Republicans in the United States. To anyone who believes that this is simply about people being "pro-life" or "saving the children," then tell them to look at what happens after the fetus is carried to term.

Republicans oppose forcing fathers to be involved in the lives of their children that were forcibly carried to term, desires to cut food stamps and make it more difficult to feed said child, cut funding for affordable housing to make it more difficult for them to find homes, cut spending to public education so these children can't move up the social ladder, and refuse to offer the woman or her child health insurance to keep them both healthy. What about efforts to prevent pregnancy? Republicans also oppose funding birth control and contraception, as well as opposing comprehensive sexual education. To them, the only feasible solution is to simply keep your legs shut. They oppose all of these things because it is, in their eyes, a violation of individual rights to force people to do something. The bill also makes women who get abortions felons, and felons can't vote. I'll let you finish putting those two together.

If you view it from this framework, it would seem like Republicans are being extremely hypocritical by violating the personal freedoms of pregnant women, but if you look at it from the view of restricting social mobility for women, then it makes perfect sense. The Republican dogma of "individual rights" and "personal responsibility" is a socially acceptable facade that they use to cover up their true intentions of protecting the status quo and protect those in power. About any Republican policy, ask yourself: does this disperse power or consolidate it? Whether it be education, healthcare, the environment, or the economy, Republicans love to keep power away from the average citizen and give it to the small number of people that they deem "deserving" of it because of their race, gender, wealth, or power. This is the case with abortion as well; Power is being taken from women, and being given back to men in a reversal of the Feminist Movement of the 1970s.

Republicans don't believe in systemic issues. They believe that everyone has the same opportunity to succeed regardless of what point they started. This is why they love capitalism so much. It acts as some sort of great filter in which only those who deserve power can make it to the top. It's also why they hate social policies; they think that helping people who can't help themselves changes the hierarchy in a negative way by giving people who don't "deserve" power, power. Of course, we know that just because you have money and power doesn't mean you earned it fair and square, and even if Republicans believe it, it wouldn't change anything because it wouldn't change how they want to distribute power.

In short, Republican policies, including abortion, leave the average American with less money, less protection, less education, worse health, less opportunity, fewer rights, and less freedom. This is NOT a side effect. This is the point. Regardless of what Republicans will tell you about "inalienable rights" and how everyone is equal, in reality, they believe that some people and groups are more deserving of rights than others, and the group that deserves rights the most are the ones "that will do the best with them." To Republicans, this group consists of the wealthy, the powerful, and the white — the mega-rich, the CEOs of large companies, gun owners and Christians.

So, who do Republicans think deserve power and give it to? People who look and think like them. This, however, begs the question: Who do they want to take it from?

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