Individual liberties V. National security: the patriot act

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US History & Government Name:_____________________________

Ms. Cannavina


Introduction: The attacks of September 11, 2001 raised important questions about how far the government can go in investigating and prosecuting individuals. A little more than one month after the attacks, Congress passed a new law, the USA Patriot Act [Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism], designed to increase federal powers to investigate terrorists. It expanded the ability of the US govt to serach telephone, email, and finance records. Despite some complaints of some who believe it violates civil liberties, most of it was renewed in 2006, and again in 2010. Its main provisions include:

  • Telephone Taps: The government may tap, if it has a court order, any telephone a suspect uses instead of having to get a separate order for each telephone.

  • Internet Taps: The government may tap, if it has a court order, internet communications.

  • Voice Mail: The government, with a court order, may seize voice mail.

  • Grand jury information: Investigators can now share w/ other govt officials things learned in secret grand jury hearings.

  • Immigration: The attorney general may hold any noncitizen who is thought to be a national security risk for up to seven days. If the alien cannot be charged w/ a crime or deported w/in that time, he or she may still be detained if he/she is certified to be a security risk.

  • Money Laundering: The government gets new powers to track the movement of money across US borders and among banks.

  • Crime: This provision eliminates the statute of limitation on terrorist crimes and increases the penalties.

  • Libraries: The act allows the FBI to seek the records of possible terrorists from banks, business, and libraries. Many libraries claim this will harm the constitutional rights of Americans.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA): FISA was created in 1978 to govern how surveillance was conducted on people in the US. Following 9/11, the Bush Administration created a secret program of wiretapping that operated outside of FISA rules; the program was discovered in 2005. Congress argued that the program had to obtain a warrant according to FISA rules, but the administration countered that would hurt the program’s effectiveness. In 2008 Congress passed a bill that allowed expanded surveillance capabilities beyond FISA and gave immunity to phone companies that had cooperated w/ the secret program.

Homework Questions: Answer on this page and print out.

1. Who is Edward Snowden and what was his revelation about the Patriot Act?

2. Do you think what he did was correct?

3. What is the current state of the Patriot Act?

4. Who is Ran Paul and what does he think of the Patriot Act?

5. August 2012 DBQ Essay: Read the documents and answer the questions, paying particular attention to the questions regarding the Patriot Act.

6. What is your opinion of the Patriot Act?

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