Upon hearing the phrase “Patriot Act,” one might assume that this is an attempt to bring citizens closer, to unite our nation to build patriotism and trust among our people. But it isn’t. The USA PATRIOT ACT is a death-sentence to freedom as we know it.
This act undermines our first and fourth constitutional amendments, which ensure our freedom of speech and ‘the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.’
Under the Patriot Act, the FBI can conduct a physical search of you or your property without a warrant or your knowledge. The FBI can also wiretap your phone to obtain evidence of crime without proving probable cause, as the Fourth Amendment explicitly requires.
The USA PATRIOT ACT gives our government the authority to monitor all wire, electronic and oral communications we send.
“Many parts of this sweeping legislature take away checks on law enforcement and threaten the very rights and freedoms that we are struggling to protect,” pleads the American Civil Liberties Union.
“For example, without a warrant or probable cause, the FBI now has the power to access your most private medical records, your library records, your student record and can prevent anyone from telling you it was done.”
For centuries, common law has required that the government can’t go into your property without telling you and must, therefore, give you notice before it executes a search. That “knock and announce” principle has long been recognized as a part of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
Let’s tear apart this act into its basic elements. The writers of the PATRIOT ACT say USA stands for ‘Uniting and Strengthening America.’Is treating our own citizens as enemies that need to be constantly monitored going to unite us? Is control over our thoughts and voices supposed to strengthen our spirits? Is America, land of the free, going to be sold into suppression by Big Brother politicians?
“Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism,” what the acronym PATRIOT ACT supposedly represents, sounds like it would be worthwhile to protect us, but is spying really an appropriate or required means? Should we feel comfortable giving up this much control to the government? Do you?
Surveillance orders can be based in part on a person’s First Amendment activities, such as the books they read, the Web sites they visit, or a letter to the editor they have written.
The Patriot Act increases the governments surveillance powers in four areas:
1. Records searches. It expands the government’s ability to look at records on an individual’s activity being held by a third parties. (Section 215)
2. Secret searches. It expands the government’s ability to search private property without notice to the owner. (Section 213)
3. Intelligence searches. It expands a narrow exception to the Fourth Amendment that had been created for the collection of foreign intelligence information (Section 218).
4. ‘Trap and trace’ searches. It expands another Fourth Amendment exception for spying that collects “addressing” information about the origin and destination of communications, as opposed to the content (Section 214).
The government no longer has to show evidence that the subjects of search orders are an agent of a foreign power, a requirement that previously protected Americans against abuse of this authority.
The FBI does not even have to show a reasonable suspicion that the records are related to criminal activity, much less the requirement for probable cause that is listed in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. All the government needs to do is make the broad assertion that the request is related to an ongoing terrorism or foreign intelligence investigation.
Finally, this new ‘sneak and peek’ power can be applied as part of normal criminal investigations. It has nothing to do with fighting terrorism or collecting foreign intelligence.
In a government that’s supposed to be by the people and for the people, the people shouldn’t have to be watched and told what they can and cannot say.
That is not freedom. That is tyranny.