Homeland Security

Objections Held by Civil Rights Advocates against the Patriot Act

The Patriot Act was passed in 2001 following the September 11 terrorist attack in an attempt to improve the ability of the law enforcement to detect and deter terrorism. The act gives investigators the power to utilize tools such as surveillance to prevent crimes of terror on the homeland. However, the Patriot Act received several objections, especially from civil rights advocates.

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According to Greene (2007), the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001 sparked great controversy. For instance, they saw the act as threatening some of the Constitutional protections and granting more power to the government. some of these objections came from the fact that many Americans did not read the long and legally complicated act. Instead, they relied on rumors surrounding its provision. Civil rights advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations rallied opposition against the act and attempted to roll back the provisions. One part of the act that attracted significant protect was the section that granted law enforcers the mandate to search and obtain financial records and administrative records with no search warrants or consent of the people affected. Advocates of civil rights argued that the government would monitor library records of Americans to know what they were reading. Another objection was related to the expansion of use of delayed notification search warrants. Initially, the practice was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court but the act expanded the use of these warrants by criminal investigators. Another objection was related to lowered standards requiring federal law enforcers to obtain court orders to use electronic monitoring devices to record numbers that a suspect dialed. The Patriot Act abolished the need to obtain a warrant to monitor devices if the government suspected that the investigation had links to terrorism. Additionally, the authority extended to the internet and applied the same rules for internet surveillance. Other sections that attracted objections include the creation of new crime of domestic terrorism, as some civil rights advocates argued that it might be used against them in case of lawful protests. Another area of concern was the power by the government to detain and hold aliens, as it was seen as an abuse of alien rights.

References

Greene, J. R. (2007). The Encyclopedia of police science: Volume 1. New York: Routledge.

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