When people come to America and decide to live here one of the first things that they think of is that this is “the land of the free.” In reality, it is not so simple. A person’s freedom in America is limited by many different factors. Citizenship, gender, race, religion, class all play a part in how free one can be. We are not all equal. In recent years, this question of how free we should be has come up again and new limits to our freedoms have been created. After the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists on September 11th, 2001, President Bush signed the Patriot Act six weeks later. In a state of panic, Congress rushed to give the government more power so that they could try to catch terrorists and protect the American people. However since then many innocent people have been wrongfully targeted and abused. When government changed around the laws that protect our rights, they opened up the door to legal violations of civil liberties. The Patriot Act allows law enforcement to use their power to violate people’s civil liberties. The Patriot Act allows the government to violate the Fourth Amendment rights of its citizens. The Fourth Amendment allows us to have privacy within our own homes. Police need probable cause to watch us or search through our belongings. However, since the Patriot Act was passed, they can now spy on people and search their homes without a warrant. This right that was written into the Constitution is being blatantly ignored. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): The Patriot Act … unconstitutionally amends the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to allow the government to conduct searches without notifying the subjects, at least until long after the search has been executed. This means that the government can enter a house, apartment or office with a search warrant when the occupants are away, search through their property, take photographs, and in some cases even seize property - and not tell them until later... Notice is a crucial check on the government's power because it forces the authorities to operate in the open, and allows the subject of searches to protect their Fourth Amendment rights. (ACLU)
As the ACLU explains, now law enforcement is allowed to search without telling us and without obtaining a warrant. They don’t even have to notify us that they are searching us and invading our privacy. They can even take our belongings into custody without our permission and without telling us. This is sneaky and dangerous. It assumes that the government is always good when sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are corrupt and their power needs to be kept in check as well. Ever since the Patriot Act was passed, it is as if our constitutional rights don’t matter anymore. These rights are there to keep us safe so the idea that the Patriot Act makes us safer is absurd. Without our rights, we can’t be safe or free. The ACLU goes on to explain exactly how the Patriot Act violates our fourth amendment rights: The Patriot Act increases the government's 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 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). (ACLU)
It is clear that the government has allowed law enforcement to “have fun” with the American people. This makes us vulnerable and scared, which is the opposite of safe. They try to make us think that it is making us...
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