Securing America and Protecting Civil Liberties

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Securing America and Protecting Civil Liberties
Mia A. Rapier
POL 201: American National Government
Instructor Scott Wilson
December 12, 2011

Civil liberties can be defined as “the personal guarantees and freedoms that the government cannot abridge by law, constitution, or judicial interpretation” (O’Connor et al, 2011). In the wake of the terrorist attacks in September 2011, the American government passed the USA Patriot Act into law. The Patriot Act in short gave law enforcement agencies increased, more broad powers to bring terrorists to justice and with its passing ignited controversy amongst many concerning the perceived violation of the first and fourth amendments. Advocates of the act believe that it is vital due to new threats to America in our ever-changing international political climate to safeguard citizens with preemptive measures. Civil libertarians, like the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), see the law as an unpatriotic means of limiting civil rights, infringing on free speech, interfering with freedom of the press and invading individual privacy rights. In this essay I hope to explain my opinions on civil liberties, the Patriot Act and how they coincide in today’s world.

The Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments to our Constitution including guarantees in support of freedom of speech, religious expression and press. The text American Government: Roots and Reform (2011), explain that “the Bill of Rights was intended to limit the power of the national government to infringe on the rights and liberties of the citizenry” (O’Connor, et al, p. 152). Over time there have been several run-ins between civil liberties and national security: the suspension of Habeas Corpus with restrictions on free speech and press during President Lincoln’s term, Executive Order 9066 “which authorized the military to remove Japanese-Americans from America's West Coast” (Brancaccio, 2003) following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and McCarthyism...
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