America is a world super power that has been commended for applying effective policies to maintain growth on its economy. However, this ability was challenged on September eleventh 2001 after the country was attacked by terrorist. This was not the first terrorist attack that has been experienced by the country, but what make it unique are the destruction that was caused and the fact that the country was caught off guard. Many lives were lost in the attack as many more victims suffer its side effects. This attack provoked the federal government to forge a means that will secure it from such similar events. This event led to the passing of the patriot act in a move to employ investigation measures to trap any arrangements of terrorist attack.
THE PATRIOT ACT
The patriotic act was established in America after the terrorist attack in September eleventh 2001. It was after this attack that the government saw the need of passing laws that will protect the nation against similar attacks. The act has since gone through various modifications by the congress where some other changes have been made. The act gives federal officials the power to track down any terrorist communications for the purpose of enforcing the law and foreign intelligence. Through this law, immigration laws are tightened and intensive checks made at airports and other entries to prevent the invasion of terrorist into the country (Doyle, 2002). The act also facilitates email trafficking and sharing some information with intelligence officers in the effort to monitor any terrorist communication. However, there has been criticism on the act as some claim that it goes too far in its efforts to combat terrorism.
Why the Act Is Necessary To Combat Terrorism
The patriotic act has specific guidelines that assist the government to employ measures that will protect the country against terrorism. Despite the availability of other internal and external laws that protect the country, the patriotic act is specific in nature. It became important when the country realized that the terrorist were after invading the countries resources. Apart from the September eleventh attack on the twin tower, several attacks on American interests in foreign countries have made the United States to be more alert in order to prevent any further attack. The country has decided to invest more funds to implement this act so as to protect its people from similar past loses that it experienced. Apart from the material and financial losses that the country experienced after the September eleventh attack, the trauma that was faced by those who were affected directly and indirectly remains as a bigger issue.
Other loses may be recovered as the individuals heal, but the emotional pain has been difficult to heal. Years after such an attack, memories of individuals who lost their loved ones still linger in peoples mind as fears continuously grip them over ‘what if such an incidence happens again’. It is due to the tears and fears of many that the country decided to forge a way forward. The nation desires that its citizens enjoy the freedom of staying in a liberated country (Gerdes, 2005). The government has purposed to utilize adequate resources to ensure that the people live in total liberty without the fear of being attacked by foreigners. The patriotic law was a measure that was taken to give the people an assurance that the government cares for its general well being and that it will go out of its way to ensure that such a thing never happens again. After the attack, most Americans felt insecure in their own nation. They needed some hope that all is not gone, that they can once again walk freely into their offices without having to be afraid of being attacked.
The act is not only theoretical but practical in its service to the citizens. The government has decided to intensify its security measures to ensure that no loophole is left for the terrorist. Among the measures employed are strict corruption measures on the treasury to ensure that no money is laundered to foreigners without thorough investigation. This is a move by the government to prevent it from being lenders to terrorist who may use the same money to attack them. The government through the act has also widened its security on the borders to ensure that no foreigner with terrorism intentions is allowed into the country. Through the intelligence and justice officers the country is also detaining and removing people who may be suspected to be terrorists in the country. The act also goes as far as identifying new crimes, policies and efficiencies to curb both domestic and international terrorism.
Through the patriotic act, federal surveillance laws were amended so as to track any terrorist communications as well as protecting confidential communications of its citizens. The authorities have devised means of differentiating between private telephone and email communication from those that may be of terrorist attacks. The court has given the government the authority to capture telephone conversation and record the destination of that particular call. Through this, foreign conversation can be carefully decoded to identify any communication that may prompt further investigation. The device used basically records the identity of the caller and the recipient.
A pen register is an electronic device that is used to register electronic communications like emails. The patriot act gives permission through the court order to investigate electronic media. Trap and trace devices are used to browse through stored emails and other communication records that may assist in trapping terrorist communications. According to section 209, voice mails that are stored are often treated as mails rather than telephone communications (Etzioni, 2004). The act also permits authorities to investigate computer systems for any strange communications after obtaining permission from the owner of the system. The law encourages the interaction of domestic criminal investigators with international ones to share information on how to eradicate terrorism.
The patriotic act provides protection against its abuse as well as safeguarding the officials and individuals that assist the government in investigations. The sunset act is the basis for all protection requirements. The act is totally against the invasion of individual’s privacy in the name of investigation. No officer is allowed to interfere with an individual’s privacy without his permission or an order from the court. A penalty of not less than ten thousand US dollars will be charged on any individual or officer that violets the conditions in title III of the act, the foreign intelligence surveillance act (FISA) and chapter 121. In its measures to protect individuals’ privacy, the act has given instructions to the department of justice’s general to appoint an official in charge of receiving all complains from individuals who have been harassed by investigation employees and officers.
The service providers and other individuals that help investigation authorities to track information are also protected from any attack. Section 815 appreciates and guarantees protection to the service providers that preserve any information until when the court orders its release. Section 212 of the act allows the service providers to disclose their customers’ information in an effort to protect their rights and property. Prior to such amendments, service providers were only allowed to reveal the content of information they have received but not their identity. It was discovered that service providers were also under risk if they allowed suspected customers to continue using their facilities for crime.
Foreign Intelligent Investigators
There is a difference between criminal investigation and foreign intelligence investigations. Even though they are both endowed with the responsibility of identifying tactics used in crime and prosecuting suspected individuals, they both have different capabilities and powers to perform their duties. Before the enacting of the patriot act, there existed other laws for criminal investigation. The availability of these laws could not provide enough measures that were required by the government to protect its people from terrorist attacks. Therefore, it was necessary for parliament to pass more laws that will enhance intensive investigations into crimes.
Criminal investigation is mostly limited to the country of operation while foreign intelligence investigation goes beyond geographical boundaries to investigate crime on the international scene. Foreign investigation was deemed necessary considering the outside border arrangements that are done to attack a nation. America has been faced with a dilemma of allowing gathering of foreign intelligence officers in the country after the events that followed the Vietnam conflict, yet it does not also justify creation of secret police. Therefore, the federal government enacted the foreign intelligence surveillance act to facilitate such gatherings.
The act was formed to basically protect the country from suspected terrorist that invaded it in the name of foreign intelligence officers; the FISA expanded its operations to include physical searches in foreign intelligence cases. The act allowed the use of pen registers, trap and trace registers and business records of those engaged in renting of hotel accommodations, renting of cars and storage lockers. Compared to criminal investigation officers intelligence authorities are able to penetrate through other private barriers. The ability to access foreign information was limited to agents and other activities of foreign government. However, foreign intelligence is responsible for all activities of foreign governments, spies, saboteurs, international terrorists together with their agents.
The FISA is an important act that seeks to safeguard people against official abuse. The act ensures that no foreign intelligence officer has access to an individual’s private data without permission. It aims at making the investigation process legal and free from manipulation. The act also authorizes the use of pen registers and other traps and trace devices used to investigate mails and conversations over the telephone. The act gives permission to the officers to launch an investigation after the court has ordered the same. The access is usually for tangible items and other business records pertaining to lodgings, car rentals and business lockers. The act ensures that citizens are protected from harassment by foreign intelligence officers by establishing claims of such cases from citizens. The act generally ensures that the government is made responsible for any negative complain from the citizens concerning investigation procedures.
In a meeting held after the terrorist attack on the pentagon and the world trade centre, the police administration and the senate suggested the need for collaboration among intelligence officers to share information that will make them intensify their investigations on terrorist threat. They identified key factors that hindered various sections of the government from sharing such information that included; inadequate training, cultural differences, bureaucratic reasons, lack of resources and legal barriers. Therefore, it was agreed that measures will first be taken to get rid of such hindrances which will create a liberal environment for the organizations to carry out their activities. Training should be considered as a continuous process among the intelligence officers to ensure that they are updated of the current tactics that may be used by terrorist to attack the nation. Citizens are also to be made aware of measures being taken by the government to protect them from terrorist invasion. This will make them appreciate such measures and cooperate with them by providing relevant information.
To prevent the government from funding terrorist activities, the government has taken stern measures on conditions that have to be fulfilled before laundering money especially to foreign institutions. Section 5318A of the bank secrecy act authorizes the secretary to the treasury to impose strict measures on agencies and all domestic financial institution to consult before carrying out international money transactions (Crotty, 2004). The treasury will have to evaluate the necessity of such transactions before finally granting them permission. The secretary has to consider the following three factors; if the other countries and multilateral groups have taken such similar measures, whether the moves will be to the advantage or disadvantage of US licensed organization and the level at which the measures will affect the laundering system.
Section 313 of the act discourages financial institutions in the United States from maintaining accounts that do not have a specified place of business. Section 325 of the act cautions financial institutions against allowing their customers to hide their financial activities but instead utilize the concentration account practices available in their institutions. Section 326 issues guidelines to be followed when registering new accounts especially if they involve foreign citizens. The act requires that extensive identification procedures be employed to prevent personification of terrorist through other individuals.
Pros of the Patriot Act
The patriot act has been supported by a good number of individuals who have seen it as a forward step by the united United States government to combat terrorism. Most terrorist attacks on US interest have been related to inadequate investigations. The investigation procedures in the patriot act will therefore go an extra mile in protecting the nation from any similar attacks. Some of the sections in the act that seem to go further in invading privacy have been condemned but several people suggest that when they are amended, the act will work.
Despite the fact that some sections interfere with personal lifestyles of individuals, the patriot act provides the best alternative that will ensure that citizens of America are protected from terrorist attacks. Those in opposition of the act may not be appreciating the effort of the government to keep them safe from attacks. They are mainly concerned about their privacy rather than their safety and the safety of those around them (Dalgaard, 2006). The government may slightly interfere with their privacy but as long as the measures are going to protect them, they need not to feel insecure about it.
The act gives the citizens the right to complain if the manner in which their privacy has been interfered with is not right. This is in a means to ensure that the investigation officers maintain a high level of discipline even as they carry out their duties. Therefore, the citizens have no reason to doubt the part that the government is playing to ensure that their personal security is not compromised. The measures applied by the act to investigate crime are sophisticated; they use modern devices that are effective to trace any suspicious attempt to terrorize the country. With continuous commitment of the investigation officers to track such communication, the citizens will not need to live in fear of being attacked by terrorists.
Cons of the Patriot Act
Despite the complements that some individuals have given towards the patriot act, some have condemned several sections of the act. Section 215 of the act that violates the freedom of individuals by allowing investigation officers access to individuals personal records. The foreign intelligence surveillance act has provisions where the government has the authority to screen through individuals personal files.
Another observation made by a constitutional lawyer looks at the patriot act as another mistake that the government may be making. Referring to the past mistakes that the country made which landed them in trouble, the lawyer suggests that the government should be careful on how it implements such laws (Michaels, 2003). Some of the events that the lawyer related to are the interment of Japanese-Americans in the world war two and the McCarthyism during the 1950’s. The lawyer is encouraging the citizens of America not to trust the government blindly as such trust may lead them into trouble.
The September eleven terrorist attack in the United States taught the country a big lesson. Issues of security had been taken for granted until when the county realized that it was a target for terrorist. America economic growth was greatly interfered with after this attack. The country had to spend more resources to rescue and help the people that were affected by attack. It remains to be a tragedy that America wishes not to happen again. The country took an urgent action immediately after the attack to forge a way that will be a permanent solution to any future attack. In October of the same year, the federal government called its members and decided to pass a bill that will ensure intensified investigations are carried out to prevent any future incidence. It was discovered that terrorist have a communication network in different places where they collaborate to attack a nation. This was the reason why the country decided to also utilize international means of investigation (Schulhofer, 2005). Through the foreign intelligence security act, America allowed the use of foreign investigators to intensify their investigation. The act ensured that only authorized investigators were allowed to prevent any form of manipulation.
Even though the act interferes to some extend with the privacy of individuals, it provides the best alternative that will ensure the country is safe from terrorism. The citizens are therefore required to corporate with the government and appreciate the efforts being made to keep them safe. The government on the other hand needs to look for alternative measures of investigating crimes without having to interfere with an individual’s personal record at any given time. The act also needs to be reviewed and amended to get rid of sections that seem to go beyond what may be required. All in all, it is not only the work of the government to investigate crimes, citizens have a right to their own security and should therefore give information to the police concerning any suspected terrorist threat.
Crotty W. (2004): The politics of terror, Massachusetts: Northeastern University Press, pp30
Dalgaard A. (2006): Transatlantic Homeland Security, New York: Routledge, pp24
Doyle C. (2002): The USA Patriot Act, Washington: Congressional Research Service, pp64
Etzioni A. (2004): How Patriotic Is the Patriot Act, United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis Group, pp18
Gerdes L. (2005): The Patriot Act, Farmington Hills: Green haven Press pp23
Michaels W. (2003): No Greater Threat, New York: Algora Publishing, pp32
Schulhofer S. (2005): Rethinking the Patriot Act, Washington: Century Foundation Press pp40