Since Sept.11 many of our civil liberties, including our rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, have been eroded.
A majority of the damage was done by a bill made up by the Bush administration eight days after Sept. 11 and passed by Congress five weeks later. The bill, called the Patriot Act, was passed without most congressmen knowing what was in the bill, and with little discussion or debate. The Patriot Act will affect not only non-citizens, but citizens as well.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) many of the Patriot Act’s most troubling provisions include three things that will be explored here.
The Patriot Act will allow for indefinite detention of non-citizens who are not terrorists on minor visa violations if they cannot be deported because they are stateless, their country of origin refuses to accept them or because they would face torture in their country of origin.
It will also expand the ability of the government to conduct secret searches.
The act will grant the FBI broad access to sensitive business records about individuals without having to show evidence of a crime and lead to large-scale investigations of American citizens for “intelligence” purposes.
The Fourth Amendment’s purpose is to protect citizens from unreasonable search and seizures, unless there is probable cause. The Fourth Amendment is basically wiped out due to the Patriot Act.
The bill now allows the secret search of your home or business, whether it be terrorist related or a regular criminal act, and the government is then allowed to use that information against citizens in court.
All internet activity and e-mails can be tracked without a warrant, as well as cell phone calls. The power of the judicial branch has been severely curtailed, as the threshold of evidence to conduct a search has been lowered considerably.
Federal law enforcement has become much more powerful as agencies can now share information with each other at their discretion. The amount of domestic surveillance would be increased dramatically under the Patriot Act, which means that the CIA can spy on people in the U.S.
This is a scary reminder of times during the Cold War, when the CIA kept secret files on anti- war protesters. This leads to one very troubling part of the Patriot Act which will affect students on university campuses throughout the country.
According to the ACLU, federal agencies can now obtain very personal information on students from colleges without a suspicion of wrong doing. According to the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, about 200 colleges and universities have turned over student information to the FBI, INS and other law enforcement agencies. Even more troubling is the fact that law enforcement agencies get information from research conducted for the National Education Statistics Act, which is supposed to be strictly confidential.
As United States citizens we must protest the degradation of our rights which are provided to us by the Bill of Rights. We must become more active as citizens by letting our government know that we disapprove of the Patriot Act. Though we do want security from the threat of another terrorist attack, we can be protected without the harsh denial of the rights which have been afforded to us.