The response must be 250 words and use at least 2 scholarly citation(s) in APA format. Any sources cited must have been published within the last five years. Acceptable sources include texts, articles, presentations, the Bible, blogs, videos, etc.
Textbook: Taylor, R. W., & Swanson, C. R. (2019). Terrorism, intelligence, and homeland security (2nd ed.). Boston: Pearson. ISBN: 9780134818146.
Discussion Five: The USA PATRIOT Act
The USA PATRIOT Act is one of the most significant pieces of legislation that developed from the realization of the various intelligence shortcomings that allowed the attacks on September 11th, 2001 to occur (Taylor & Swanson, 2019). It has created a fierce debate about where the line should fall between individual freedoms and national security, with some going so far as to say that the act was pushed through at the opportune time by taking advantage of the public sentiment. This discussion will explore the advent and evolution of the USA PATRIOT Act and will go on to explore its constitutionality concerns that have arisen since this legislation. Additionally, a Christian worldview will be explored.
The USA PATRIOT Act
The USA PATRIOT Act, which is short for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism, was passed just six weeks after the attacks on September 11th, and allowed tools already being used against organized crime to apply to terrorists, facilitated information sharing between agencies, updated laws to be consistent with modern technology and its related threats, and increased the punishment for committing terrorist acts (American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU], n.d.; Department of Justice, n.d.). It increased the government’s ability to conduct records searches, secret searches, intelligence searches, and trap and trace searches (ACLU, n.d.). These original provisions allowed intelligence and law enforcement organizations to easily monitor Internet usage, conduct roving wiretaps on both cellular and landline phones, and analyze the reading habits of public library users (Taylor & Swanson, 2019). In March 2006, President George W. Bush passed revisions to the act that maintained the roving wire taps, although it added extra oversight, removed the library records provision, limited the use of sneak and peek searches, and expanded the definition of terrorism. In 2011, Congress reviewed some of the provisions in the act and reauthorized roving wiretaps connected to an individual, not just a device, expanded the act to also include business records and other evidence while also lowering the standard for a court order, and extended the lone wolf provision. In June, 2015, The USA Freedom Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama, which dissolved the provisions that allowed for bulk internet and phone data collection by the NSA, established new reporting requirements to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), declassified FISA court opinions, expanded private companies’ abilities to disclose the number of FISA requests, required advocates for public interests in FISA Court, increased the maximum penalty for material support for terrorism, and authorized the government to collect up to two hops of call records.
Constitutionality and Concerns
There are multiple potential constitutionality concerns surrounding the USA PATRIOT Act, including challenging the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments, specifically (Taylor & Swanson, 2019). Critics cite the act’s chilling effect on free speech as a violation of the First Amendment’s freedom of speech. The original act did not even require reasonable suspicion for wiretaps, searches, or obtaining third-party records, and although the USA Freedom Act somewhat limited this, the act still expanded the government’s ability to conduct searches without notice, and with notice often not being provided until 30 to 90 days later. Critics site these provisions as violations to the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable search and seizures. The act’s power to arrest and hold any foreign national suspected of terrorism that has been certified by the Attorney General for up to seven days without a charge and the use of extraordinary rendition are both cited as violations to the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process and the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a speedy and fair trial.
While it may be of extreme importance to protect the citizens of the United States, it is also important to respect the rights of those citizens. As the British saw in 1776, if you push hard enough, eventually, there will be pushback. While the intent behind the USA PATRIOT Act may be good, it does not necessarily justify the means through which it reaches its goals. While the Bible states in Titus 3:1, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,” it also states in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than human beings” (New International Bible, 1978/2011). Christian teachings remind us to respect authority, but to also remember that God is the ultimate, true authority. For this reason, Christians should respect the USA PATRIOT Act, but be willing to fight any injustices that come from it.
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