The Patriot Act is officially known as the USA Patriot Act. It is an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. The Act came into effect in about six weeks following the attacks at the World Trade Center. The Patriot Act was initiated by the then President George W. Bush and had received staggering support in the aftermath of one of the deadliest terror strikes in the history of mankind.
Over the years, the Patriot Act has been used and misused in myriad ways. Many security experts and intelligence analysts have since claimed that the Act has successfully managed to thwart numerous terror attempts. From busting sleeper cells to monitoring immigrations, studying the movements of suspicious people in the country to having greater control of overall security of the nation, the Patriot Act has apparently made America a safer place. However, there have been many criticisms of the Act. There have been incidents of misuse and the infringement of right to privacy has always been at the crux of the debate.
Patriot Act Pros
1. Prevents terrorism in case it fails to avert an attack.
The primary purpose of the Patriot Act is to prevent terrorism and in case it fails to avert an attack, the material available can be used to capture and convict terrorists. Preemptive legal action has also become a byproduct of the Patriot Act which has helped in the prevention of terror attacks and convicting those who were plotting against the country and its people. In a decade and a half, the Patriot Act has helped convictions in more than four hundred terrorism cases. One can only imagine how many lives have been saved.
2. Empowers the country’s defense forces, law enforcement agencies and also intelligence departments.
From the cops on the street to the federal agents, the surveillance equipments to the weapons available to counter terrorism, everyone in charge of security and everything used for security have become stronger.
3. The Patriot Act is not similar to Marshal Law.
There are numerous checks and balances. The jurisdiction of courts is not suspended, basic rights or liberties are not compromised and different government agencies work independently and autonomously while being well supervised by various laws. No one authority or agency has absolute power and the Patriot Act itself doesn’t offer any sweeping power that can compromise the quality of life or rights of the ordinary citizens.
4. The Patriot Act has a provision that assures funding for victims or families of victims of terror strikes.
This is in addition to all the financial aid that the victims or their families may already get or be entitled to. This is not an oft talked about feature of the Patriot Act.
Patriot Act Cons
1. Suffers from an infringement of right to privacy.
Security agencies or law enforcement officers can access personal information that shouldn’t be otherwise available, they can tap into the phones, computers and all kinds of technology products to study the behaviors, movements and everything there is to know about ordinary citizens and one is basically under constant surveillance which is not in adherence to the Right to Privacy.
2. Can be deemed worse than the infringement of the right to privacy.
Wrongful imprisonment is one of the undesirable byproducts. Anyone suspected of terrorist activity, supporting terror groups or just fitting a profile or description of an alleged terrorist may be arrested, held in prison without any attorney and without any immediate legal recourse. There is no due or just process for these wrongfully imprisoned people, regardless of their guilt or innocence. In recent years, wrongful imprisonment has become less of a concern because the country is relatively safer and more secured. It was a massive issue in the years immediately after 2001 when mass scale wrongful imprisonments were reported.
3. Resulted in the government knowing everything about everyone.
Whether it is your phone or your computer, any GPS device or the IP address, your whereabouts or your past, everything is on record for the security agencies to access anytime. This makes anonymity impossible to achieve. While there hasn’t been any major case of misusing all these details, certainly not on a noticeable scale, but one can always feel that their right to life has been compromised in many ways. The constitution grants every citizen the right to live anywhere, move anywhere, do anything for a living and to practice any faith among other rights, as long as one’s action doesn’t adversely affect the rights of another citizen, without the government snooping down. In some ways, the implications of the Patriot Act do come in the way of many fundamental rights.