Culture and Society

Can the Patriot Act have negative implications?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. The provisions of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, which is an antiterrorism bill that was passed in the immediate wake of the Sept. 11 tragedies, can have a negative impact on American civil liberties, such as the right to privacy and the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. In addition, the Patriot Act places new limitations on a terror suspect's right to consult with a lawyer, and it makes allowances for detention of suspected terrorists without trial. Many of these provisions could be seen as contraventions of the rights of due process and trial by jury. Critics of the Patriot Act see these as negative developments (and sometimes as informed by sinister motives), while supporters argue that the greater good of obstructing terrorism outweighs these minor reductions to the number of civil liberties we enjoy. These civil liberties would be reduced even if all investigators were to follow the rules, but, of course, some members of the law enforcement community have misused the powers afforded to them by the Patriot Act.

    An FBI internal investigation revealed at least 1,000 cases of misuse of National Security Letters (NSLs) between 2002 and 2007, after the Patriot Act loosened the rules on NSLs [source: Solomon]. There are also cases in which the provisions of the Patriot Act have been used to catch mere drug sellers (as opposed to the potential terrorists that the bill is supposed to target), to collect financial information about Las Vegas visitors who had committed no known crimes, and even to clear homeless people out of railway stations [sources: Associated Press, Lichtblau, Dunham]. Critics of the Patriot Act contend that these examples only point to many the possible abuses of the act, and the lack of judicial review and other checks and balances makes it too easy for this misuse to continue.

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