The Patriot Act 14 years later: Where do we stand?
In the wake of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, as well as the subsequent anthrax attacks, the U.S. government authorized the controversial Patriot Act. Now, 14 years later, with The Patriot Act set to expire on June 1, it is time to monitor its progress in regards to the war on terror.
While it is full of pages of technical jargon, the basics of the Patriot Act are quite simple: it is meant to expand the powers of the federal government for the purposes of safeguarding national security and fighting potential terror threats. These powers include, but are not limited to, roving wiretaps and delayed warrant searches. The National Security Agency (NSA) also has unprecedented access to the telephone data of nearly every American citizen through the act, which is perhaps the most controversial condition.
The issue currently features a three-front debate between those in favor of the current legislation — those who want The Patriot Act gone altogether and those in favor of reform.
Those in favor of The Patriot Act feel that it is essential to safeguarding the nation from terror threats. They view the sacrifice of a few civil liberties as a necessary evil to protect Americans from an ever-present danger of terrorism.
Just last week at a public event, Republican Governor Chris Christie stood firm in defense of the legislation stating: “you can’t enjoy your civil liberties, if you’re in a coffin.” This statement drew criticism from both sides of the political spectrum and exposed the severity of citizens’ frustration.
On the other side of the debate, detractors of The Patriot Act view it as a fundamental violation of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution, which protects Americans from “unreasonable search and seizures” of their property. Additionally, it requires legal warrants for such searches (among myriad other protections).
Their opinion on the matter has also recently experienced a bolstering by a revelation from the FBI that The Patriot Act has thwarted no major terrorist attacks since its inception in 2001.
Another vocal group in this polemical issue are those in favor of reform. A revised form of The Patriot Act — known as the USA Freedom Act — would do away with the NSA’s unlimited access to personal phone data, instead requiring warrants to get information on specific citizens from telecommunication companies. It easily passed through the House last month, but has since been stuck in the Senate with the clock slowly ticking away. President Obama himself supports this legislation, saying it “strikes an appropriate balance” with regards to what is needed to ensure national security.
With only days left until The Patriot Act expires, we will have to wait and see what happens to this controversial legislation.
How do you feel about The Patriot Act? Comment below or tweet @connerws to tell us how you feel!