The USA Patriot Act: Legal, Yes, But Unethical

The USA Patriot Act: Legal, Yes, But Unethical

The Patriot Act is a constitutional violation.
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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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Your Wait time At Theme Parks Is Not Unfair, You're Just Impatient

Your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself.

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Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios "unboxed" on June 30, 2018. My friend and I decided to brave the crowds on opening day. We got to the park around 7 AM only to find out that the park opened around 6 AM. Upon some more scrolling through multiple Disney Annual Passholder Facebook groups, we discovered that people were waiting outside the park as early as 1 AM.

We knew we'd be waiting in line for the bulk of the Toy Story Land unboxing day. There were four main lines in the new land: the line to enter the land; the line for Slinky Dog Dash, the new roller coaster; the line for Alien Spinning Saucers, the easier of the new rides in the land; Toy Story Mania, the (now old news) arcade-type ride; and the new quick-service restaurant, Woody's Lunchbox (complete with grilled cheese and "grown-up drinks").

Because we were so early, we did not have to wait in line to get into the land. We decided to ride Alien Spinning Saucers first. The posted wait time was 150 minutes, but my friend timed the line and we only waited for 50 minutes. Next, we tried to find the line for Slinky Dog Dash. After receiving conflicting answers, the runaround, and even an, "I don't know, good luck," from multiple Cast Members, we exited the land to find the beginning of the Slinky line. We were then told that there was only one line to enter the park that eventually broke off into the Slinky line. We were not about to wait to get back into the area we just left, so we got a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania that we didn't plan on using in order to be let into the land sooner. We still had to wait for our time, so we decided to get the exclusive Little Green Man alien popcorn bin—this took an entire hour. We then used our Fastpass to enter the land, found the Slinky line, and proceeded to wait for two and a half hours only for the ride to shut down due to rain. But we've come this far and rain was not about to stop us. We waited an hour, still in line and under a covered area, for the rain to stop. Then, we waited another hour and a half to get on the ride from there once it reopened (mainly because they prioritized people who missed their Fastpass time due to the rain). After that, we used the mobile order feature on the My Disney Experience app to skip part of the line at Woody's Lunchbox.

Did you know that there is actually a psychological science to waiting? In the hospitality industry, this science is the difference between "perceived wait" and "actual wait." A perceived wait is how long you feel like you are waiting, while the actual wait is, of course, the real and factual time you wait. There are eight things that affect the perceived wait time: unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time, pre-process waits feel longer than in-process waits, anxiety makes waits feel longer, uncertain waits are longer than certain waits, unexplained waits are longer than explained waits, unfair waits are longer than equitable waits, people will wait longer for more valuable service and solo waiting feels longer than group waiting.

Our perceived wait time for Alien Spinning Saucers was short because we expected it to be longer. Our wait for the popcorn seemed longer because it was unoccupied and unexplained. Our wait for the rain to stop so the ride could reopen seemed shorter because it was explained. Our wait between the ride reopening and getting on the coaster seemed longer because it felt unfair for Disney to let so many Fastpass holders through while more people waited through the rain. Our entire wait for Slinky Dog Dash seemed longer because we were not told the wait time in the beginning. Our wait for our food after placing a mobile order seemed shorter because it was an in-process wait. We also didn't mind wait long wait times for any of these experiences because they were new and we placed more value on them than other rides or restaurants at Disney. The people who arrived at 1 AM just added five hours to their perceived wait

Some non-theme park examples of this science of waiting in the hospitality industry would be waiting at a restaurant, movie theater, hotel, performance or even grocery store. When I went to see "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the power went out in the theater right as we arrived. Not only did we have to wait for it to come back and for them to reset the projectors, I had to wait in a bit of anxiety because the power outage spooked me. It was only a 30-minute wait but felt so much longer. At the quick-service restaurant where I work, we track the time from when the guest places their order to the time they receive their food. Guests in the drive-thru will complain about 10 or more minute waits, when our screens tell us they have only been waiting four or five minutes. Their actual wait was the four or five minutes that we track because this is when they first request our service, but their perceived wait begins the moment they pull into the parking lot and join the line because this is when they begin interacting with our business. While in line, they are experiencing pre-process wait times; after placing the order, they experience in-process wait times.

Establishments in the hospitality industry do what they can to cut down on guests' wait times. For example, theme parks offer services like Disney's Fastpass or Universal's Express pass in order to cut down the time waiting in lines so guests have more time to buy food and merchandise. Stores like Target or Wal-Mart offer self-checkout to give guests that in-process wait time. Movie theaters allow you to check in and get tickets on a mobile app and some quick-service restaurants let you place mobile or online orders. So why do people still get so bent out of shape about being forced to wait?

On Toy Story Land unboxing day, I witnessed a woman make a small scene about being forced to wait to exit the new land. Cast Members were regulating the flow of traffic in and out of the land due to the large crowd and the line that was in place to enter the land. Those exiting the land needed to wait while those entering moved forward from the line. Looking from the outside of the situation as I was, this all makes sense. However, the woman I saw may have felt that her wait was unfair or unexplained. She switched between her hands on her hips and her arms crossed, communicated with her body language that she was not happy. Her face was in a nasty scowl at those entering the land and the Cast Members in the area. She kept shaking her head at those in her group and when allowed to proceed out of the land, I could tell she was making snide comments about the wait.

At work, we sometimes run a double drive-thru in which team members with iPads will take orders outside and a sequencer will direct cars so that they stay in the correct order moving toward the window. In my experience as the sequencer, I will inform the drivers which car to follow, they will acknowledge me and then still proceed to dart in front of other cars just so they make it to the window maybe a whole minute sooner. Not only is this rude, but it puts this car and the cars around them at risk of receiving the wrong food because they are now out of order. We catch these instances more often than not, but it still adds stress and makes the other guests upset. Perhaps these guests feel like their wait is also unfair or unexplained, but if they look at the situation from the outside or from the restaurant's perspective, they would understand why they need to follow the blue Toyota.

The truth of the matter is that your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself. We all want instant gratification, I get it. But in reality, we have to wait for some things. It takes time to prepare a meal. It takes time to experience a ride at a theme park that everyone else wants to go on. It takes time to ring up groceries. It takes patience to live in this world.

So next time you find yourself waiting, take a minute to remember the difference between perceived and actual wait times. Think about the eight aspects of waiting that affect your perceived wait. Do what you can to realize why you are waiting or keep yourself occupied in this wait. Don't be impatient. That's no way to live your life.

Cover Image Credit:

Aranxa Esteve

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How to Boost Minority Voices on College Campuses

An ideal college campus has a healthy dose of diversity that reflects the real world

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An ideal college campus has a healthy dose of diversity that reflects the real world. Unfortunately, due to cost of attendance and geographical location, most college campuses have a skewed population. Minority students sometimes struggle to feel welcome on campus – which may become detrimental to their mental, academic, and physical well-being. Non-minority students should help boost their voices on campus by understanding the social movements in which minority students follow and the issues these movements endorse. Here are two examples of very successful programs involving college students:

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter formed following the murder of the black, unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin. On February 26th, 2012, George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, called 911 to report Martin's 'suspicious activity' before fatally shooting him. Uncovered evidence suggested that Zimmerman acted because he was wary of Martin's race – and not the actual threat of criminal activity. The Black Lives Matter movement gained further traction after the distressing murder of Michael Brown in 2014. Brown was shot numerous times by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Protests erupted in Ferguson and across the United States – with followers that represent all intersections of gender, ability, citizenship and experience. "[They] are working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise."

The echoes of the Black Lives Matter message left an imprint on the University of Missouri football team and other student organizations, who all called for the Mizzou President Tim Wolfe's resignation. This protest followed inaction of school leaders when dealing with racial issues on campus. The football team, with their coaches' support, refused to play or practice until Wolfe stepped down. The refusal to play games could have cost the university $1 million in cancellation fees. The Missouri football team showed immense courage – risking their scholarships, academic standing, and image on a national level for a controversial but necessary cause.


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#Blacklivesmatter

Cripple Punk

Cripple Punk (or C-Punk for those uncomfortable using the slur) is a movement by the physically disabled, for the physically disabled. It was accidentally created by Tumblr user @Crpl-Pnk, or Tai/Tyler, who posted a grunge-style selfie with a cane and the words 'Cripple Punk' in the caption. The picture went viral, and so did the rejection of stereotypes. Tyler said Cripple Punk is here for the bitter cripple and the un-inspirational cripple –fighting the idea that all cripples must be wonderful people, all the time.

The movement respects all intersections of race, gender, culture, sexual/romantic orientation, size, intersex status, mental illness, neurodivergent, and survivor status. Cripple Punk recognizes that there is no universal disabled experience, and encourages followers to understand unfamiliar experiences. Participating in the activism is not conditional on things like what kind of mobility aids one uses, or how much one can 'function.' One goal of the movement is to fight internalized ableism (feelings of internalized discrimination of disabilities produced by society) They also strive to empower those currently struggling to own their disabled identity through body positivity. This allows the community to choose how they are seen, and to be unapologetically disabled.

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It is not unusual as a disabled person to feel isolated from others who share your experiences. The Internet has created a space to seek out others with similar experiences, learn from each other, and motivate each other. This online community is incredibly important, as it is often difficult for disabled people to participate in typical protests. Many cannot march because of the nature of their conditions, or the unfortunate reality that many protests are still inaccessible.


Simple ways to amplify minority voices

Following these movements is perhaps the easiest way to show support, whether it be by attending events, retweeting hashtags, or signing petitions. Rally for a more diverse faculty, multicultural centers, and more accessible counseling or tutoring services for minority students. Elect to take an ethic studies or diversity course to listen and understand other worldviews— this may be the first time you are faced with perspectives different from your own. Seek to understand the history of your institution and its potential shortcomings and rally for change with your peers whenever possible. Make your college a place that everyone would want to attend; your campus diversity starts with encouragement.

Cover Image Credit:

https://unsplash.com/photos/JHrNFqwBbig

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