The Patriot Act Abuses Civil Liberties

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"The American people are beginning to realize that this piece of legislation poses a threat to our God-given freedoms protected by the U.S. Constitution." In the following viewpoint, John F. McManus claims that the USA Patriot Act, which was passed in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, gives the president authority and powers that are not limited to the pursuit of terrorists. McManus warns that the act licenses snooping on U.S. citizens, including the seizure of business records, the collecting of e-mails, and the wiretapping of phone calls. He sees these executive powers as evidence of "empire building," not respect for the Constitution and the constraints of the presidential office. McManus suggests that Congress limit these powers as the Patriot Act comes up for renewal. Within a month of the printing of McManus's views, however, Congress chose to extend the majority of the privileges granted by the act. John F. McManus is president of the John Birch Society, an organization dedicated to preserving individual liberty. As you read, consider the following questions:

1.What evidence does McManus give for claiming that the Patriot Act was initially rushed through Congress? 2.According to the author, why does President George W. Bush believe the Patriot Act needs to be renewed? It's one thing to add a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down. But it's quite another to go to enormous lengths to convince a patient that the medicine itself is the sugar. Yet this is substantially what the [George W.] Bush administration and its allies in the building of an imperial presidency did when they labeled their grasp for power "The Patriot Act." The act's full name is "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001." Rushed through Congress in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it has long been touted as a necessary tool to prevent more attacks. Containing over 500 pages of detailed and lawyer-like verbiage, it is certain that no member had an opportunity to study it before being asked to approve it. Unchecked Snooping

While no one can doubt that the federal government should have responded to the 9/11 treachery, the American people are beginning to realize that this piece of legislation poses a threat to our God-given freedoms protected by the U.S. Constitution. For instance, the act increases the ability of law enforcement to search homes and business records secretly; it expands wiretapping and surveillance authority; and it creates an entirely new mechanism for obtaining proper search warrants and then engaging in electronic snooping of email, telephone calls, and internet messaging. Under its provisions, persons ordered to turn over business records are not permitted to contact an attorney or seek the protection of the courts. Further, its provisions are far from clearly stated, giving almost free rein to federal officials to use the act and then rely on the courts to uphold the legitimacy of what they have done. Those who wrote the act expected resistance to its sweeping grants of power, so they added a "sunset" provision stipulating that some of its surveillance powers "shall cease to have effect on December 31, 2005." President Bush wants the entire act extended but many in Congress, buttressed with years to study it and learn of its dangers to liberty, have seen enough and want to bury its extremely controversial portions. So, the compromisers took over. Prior to the December 31 expiration date Congress voted to extend the sunset provision five weeks, to February 3. On that date, some of the most intrusive surveillance powers in the bill—such as using "roving" wiretaps, searching property without notifying its owner, and scrutinizing business records, books, and other documents—will die, unless those powers are again extended or (as the president wants) are made permanent. No Extensions

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