Federal Restrictions on Your Privacy and Communications

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Federal Restrictions on Your Privacy and Communications
Michael Brillon
ENG 122 English Composition II
Dr. Sarah Bowman

Throughout the history of the United States, Americans have always expected a certain level of privacy. This right was granted to them by both the First and Fourth Amendments of the US Constitution. In 2001, then President Georg W. Bush signed into law the US Patriot Act. This act was originally introduced as a response to the September 11th attacks to reduce the restrictions on law enforcements abilities to search specific types of electronic communication, authority to regulate financial transactions more in depth and to expand the timeframe individuals detained for being suspected of participating, support or funding terrorist activities (USA Patriot Act, 2001). With the increase of technological advances in communications technology, Americans will need to start expecting the US Government to more freely pry into their privacy. The USA Patriot Act has become a vital tool for law enforcement in identifying, locating, and apprehending terrorists in the US. Without this act, it would be much more difficult to locate these terrorists and they would be allowed to venture into the US and create any havoc they see fit. Because of the Patriot Act, Americans have started to see certain privacy issues surface from full body scanners at the airports to increased communications interceptions on their phones.

On September 11th 2001, ten individuals boarded two separate flights departing out of Boston Massachusetts. In Washington DC, five more individuals boarded a plane heading for Los Angeles. Finally, in Newark New Jersey, almost exactly the same time as the three fore mentioned flights, four more individuals boarded a plane destined for San Francisco. According to the Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission, 2004) all four of these flights departed their respective airports within 20 minutes of each other and by 8:10 am all four were in the air heading for their destinations. 36 minutes later American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into World's Trade Center North Tower (9/11 and Terrorist Travel (2004). 14 different people, all non residents of the USA choreographed one of the deadliest attacks ever made on the US. The ultimate question is: Could it have been prevented? If the Patriot Act had already existed, the possibility the Government would have been able to intercept these individuals would have been much greater thus preventing the deadliest act of terrorism in the history of the United States.

Now called the USA Patriot Act, which is an acronym for Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (18 USC Sec. 107-56) it was initially embraced by the American public thinking it was a new tool for the government to take down terrorist in the U.S.. Gould and LeClerc (2006) stated "although initial response to the Patriot Act was overwhelmingly positive" it didn’t take long for Americans to see just how much the government has taken control of their civil liberties and rights. Many people took the approach "I've got nothing to hide" but did not reasonably consider just how much power the government had given themselves.

Prior to the USA Patriot Act, Federal law enforcement agencies struggled with communication between each other. There wasn’t a seamless avenue which law enforcement could share known knowledge of potential terrorists. Rossini, M.( 2009) In 1999 the National Security Agency had received communications between Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmil, two of the terrorists on flight 91, which linked themselves and Mohammad Atta, the main perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks, that they would be coming to the US. These individuals were already known by the FBI as potential terrorist’s threats but when the NSA tried to escalate the threat to...
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