OnSeptember 11th, 2001, terrorists hijacked four commercial airline planes; two of the planeswere flown into the World Trade Center towers, one was flown into the Pentagon, and onecrash-landed in a field in Pennsylvania. As a result, forty-five days after the terror attacks, George W. Bush signed into effect a bill that wouldallow the justice department to wiretap phone calls, read emails andtext messages to help end the war on terrorism. Theintent was for government and law enforcement agencies to be able to preventfuture acts of terrorism on American soil.
The name “The USA Patriot Act” is an acronym for “Uniting and Strengthening America by ProvidingAppropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. ” The law wasintended to enforce penalties for any terrorist, as well as anyone who would help them. The act allows agencies to access informationand removed the restrictions of communications surveillance, also allowinggovernment agencies access to medical and financial records. Law enforcement agencies were ordered to focusand work against financial counterfeiting, smuggling, and money laundering schemes that funded terroristorganizations. The USA PatriotAct now superseded all state laws.
1Congress favored the bill, some members ofcongress did not believe that this was enough to combat terrorism. Many civil rights groups believe that the billwould allow too much power given to the executive branch. This law would allow the government toinvestigate American’s phone calls, and emails. The mission statement of theDepartment of Justice is “The Department ofJustice’s priority isto prevent future terrorist attacks. Since its passage following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Patriot Act has played a key part – and often theleading role – in a number of successful operations to protect innocentAmericans from the deadly plans of terrorists dedicated to destroying Americaand our way of life. While the resultshave been important, inpassing the Patriot Act,Congress provided for only modest, incremental changes in the law.
Congress simply took existing legal principlesand retrofitted them to preserve the lives and liberty of the American peoplefrom the challenges posed by a global terrorist network. ” TheUnited States Patriot act allows many things to be expanded within the agencies. The act allows agencies new tools to aid inthe investigation of organized crime and drug trafficking. The FBI was now able to wiretap terrorists thesame way they were able to wiretap the mafia. Before the Patriot act went into effect lawenforcement agencies could use electronic surveillance to investigate drugcrimes,mail fraud,and passport fraud.
The new access to wiretaps allows a fullinvestigation into things such as Americans who were killed abroad, terrorism financing, and use of chemical weapons. The act also allows for roving wiretaps; these are effective with terrorsuspects who will rapidly change location as well as changing communicationdevices. The warrant (signed by a federal judge) wouldallow the agents to track the suspect rather than just one phone number, one cell phone, or one email address. Nextfederal agents would be allowed to conduct investigations without having to thesuspect know. If the suspect catches on that they are beinginvestigated,they may flee,destroy evidence,go into ghost mode with known associates,kill witnesses, and anything to evade the police. Federal courts allow for a delayed period thatthe subject does not know that a judicially approved search warrant had beenissued. The suspect will be notified but first theagency can investigate the suspect,identify associates,eliminate immediate threats to communities,and organize the arrests of individuals who may tip off the suspect.
Thefederal court can be asked for a search warrant into the business records ofcompanies and corporations in a national security terrorism case. Hardware stores or chemical plants are oftensought after,used to find out who bought materials to make a bomb, or to see who had funded anyterrorist organization. Through grand jury subpoenas law enforcementauthorities have been able to gather vital information from business records incases of national security. Police used library records to investigate thezodiac Gunman who was inspired by a Scottish occult poet; with these records the agency wasable to see who had checked out the book. Under the patriot act the government can askpermission from a federal court foraid in an investigation to obtain foreign intelligence, which does not concern an Americancitizen,or to prevent acts of international terrorism Thepatriot act would remove many legal barriers that prevented law enforcement andhomeland security agencies from coordinating with each other. As a result,Federal,town, state, intelligence and Legal agencies canwork together,connect all the dots which can lead to the uncovering of terroristic plots, before they are enacted.
“we simply cannot prevail in the battleagainst terrorism if the right hand of our government has no idea what the lefthand is doing” Senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) at a press conference(10/26/2001) Prosecutorsand investigators were able to share and use information on the “Virginia Jihad.” Members of the Dar al-Arqam Islamiccenter trained for Jihad in Northern Virginia, theirtraining included paintball matches and paramilitary training. This group included 8 people who had gone toAfghanistan or Pakistan to receive terrorist training between 1999 and 2001.
The members of this group had knownassociations with an Islamic extremist group known as Lashkar-e-Taiba. Because of the act these officials were ableto bring charges against the group.Sixplead guilty,and three others were convicted of their charges in 2004. These charges include conspiracy to levy waragainst the United states and conspiracy to provide material support to theTaliban. Sentences ranged from four years to life inprison. Thelaw was then updated to include modern technologies.
The patriot act updated technology that wasleft over from the rotary telephone era. After the death of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, authorities were able to use thisadvanced technology to identify some of the killers. Law enforcement is now able to obtain a searchwarrant for the area where a terrorist attack had occurred. Victims of computer hacking can request lawenforcement assistance in monitoring the hackers. This put cyber trespassers at the same levelof criminality as physical trespassers.ThePenalty against those who committed terroristic acts was increased in bothforeign and domestic events.
As a new offense it prohibits knowinglyharboring people who have or are going to commit terrorist acts, including but are not limited todestruction of aircraft,use of nuclear chemicals or biological weapons,weapons of mass destruction,bombing of Govt. property,including nuclear facilities,and aircraft piracy. An increase in penalty for varying crimes committedby terrorists;these crimes can include,arson, destruction of energyfacilities,material support to terrorists and their organizations, and destruction of national defensematerials. Anincreased penalty on crimes also includes conspiracy penalties.
Conspiracy to commit arson, killing in federal facilities, attacking communication systems, material support to terrorists, sabotage of nuclear facilities, and interference with flight crewmembers. Under previous terrorism laws there wasnothing that prohibited conspiracy to commit these offenses. Under previousstatutes terrorists could only be charged with general federal conspiracy provision, which is amaximum sentence of five years in prison. The departmentof justice’s website states “The government’s success in preventing another catastrophic attack onthe American homeland since September 11, 2001, would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, without the USAPatriot Act. The authoritiesCongress provided have substantially enhanced our ability to prevent, investigate, and prosecuteacts of terror. ” 2 Before9/11 many members of congress opposed measures that would soon be a part of thePatriot act.
Many members of congress believed that themeasures now put into play were unconstitutional. Due to the events of September 11ththose objections were put away,only one senator voted against it,democratic senator Russell Feingold. The next day the House of Representativespassed the bill 357-66. Thefinal bill was 342 pages,changing 15 existing laws. On the 26th of October, President George W. Bush signed the Patriot Act into effect. He praised the “newtools to fight the present danger. .
. a threat like no other our Nation has everfaced.” He also asserted thatthe Patriot Act “upholdsand respects the civil liberties guaranteed by our Constitution.” The Patriot Act defines “domestic terrorism” as activities within the UnitedStates that involve acts deemed dangerous to human life that appear to beintended– (i)to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;(ii)to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or(iii)to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping. Thefourth amendment of the U.
S. Constitution,a person is protected in their homes,papers,and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures. Because of the fourth amendment, to legallysearch a home,person,or their belongings,a law enforcement official must gain a search warrant. To receive a warrant the police officer mustmake a sworn statement to a judge,stating the places that will be searched,the people who are being searched for,and potentially seized,and any items that are being looked for specifically. The judge can only sign off on a warrant ifthe Police have “probablecause” of the person’s criminality.
Underthe Patriot act the availability of a search warrant is greater; the FBI is now able to meet beforethe Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to gain a search warrant for “any tangible items” that may link the suspect toterrorism. As a result,the FBI must ensure that the search is to protect from international terrorismand spying. The Patriot act now authorizes the court toissue a search warrant for any person believed to be involved in terrorist acts. These acts can stem from first amendmentrights of free speech such as peaceful protesting. “Anytangible items”can be anything such as books,documents,logs/ or personal records,political groups,etc. The patriot act now prohibits any third-partymembers such as librarians,or internet service providers to inform the person who is being searched.
In section 216 of the Patriot act the Pen trapnow includes email and web browsing on top of phone calls. Thethree states (Alaska,Hawaii,and Vermont) as well as 149 cities,towns, and counties submittedchanges on the Patriot act. Due to the criticism of the act congressrethought the constitutionality of the act. The house of representative voted 309-118 torepeal the sneak and peek searches. Democratic senator Ron Wyden from Oregon, and Republic senator Lisa Murkowskiof Alaska pushed a bill that would allow the sneak and peek searches to be usedbut the person being investigated would have to be notified within sevencalendar days. Atthe time attorney general and other public office holders offered support forthe act because we were at war at the time. The attorney general Ashcroft believed that “we have to do things differently thanwe did before.
” Statingthat the act was “toprevent terrorists form unleashing more death and destruction.” But also believed that the courtsand congress still protected the constitutional rights of Americans. In2003 attorney general Ashcroft pushed for another law called “the Patriot Act II”, would allow the government to revokethe citizenship of any American who provided material support to any terroristorganizations. Opposition to the patriot act grew in July of2003, the American civilliberties union filed a suit against section 215;stating the searches of anyone’spersonal files is unconstitutional.
3 Thepatriot act is still in effect today, president Barack Obama re-signed the actinto effect in 2011 and 2015.