March 9, 2011

The Patriot Act and You

Filed under: Patriot Act — publicandprivatespace @ 11:20 am

By Danny Macovei

The U.S.A. Patriot Act is something that should scare you.  Currently, many of the rights that you think you have are actually nonexistent.  The government considers the means by which we maintain national security to be much more important than the rights that are guaranteed to you by the Bill of Rights.  By the provisions in the Patriot Act, the executive branch is legally allowed to go on witch hunts in order to find terrorists.  The methods that they use to go about this completely go against the very things that made this country so unique when it was founded.

One of the most terrifying privileges that the Patriot Act grants the government is the use of “sneak and peak” warrants.  These warrants allow for officials to enter the homes of any U.S. citizen convicted of any U.S. crime, which includes misdemeanors, as can be seen in this article from Examiner. Not only are they allowed to enter the suspect’s home, but they are also allowed to do it when the resident is not present.  Even worse than this, the resident needs never to be informed.  This means that if you have been charged with a misdemeanor for some minor incident like the shoplifting or the use of marijuana, you have no way of knowing that people haven’t already searched your home to find connections to terrorist activities.  If this did happen to you, and you somehow found out about it, you would have no right to prosecute anybody involved, because it is completely within the confines of the law. 

The really scary thing is that it isn’t just possible for the government to use its rights inappropriately, it actually happens.  Brandon Mayfield was subject to a huge violation of rights, and he turned out to be an innocent man.  The F.B.I. identified his fingerprints at the scene of the 2004 Madrid Train Bombing.  Spanish officials tried to tell the F.B.I. that they disagreed with the identification, but they did not pay any attention to the assertion, as can be found in the following investigative  report.  They thought of him as suspicious because he represented a terrorism defendant in a child-custody case, or in other words, because he was doing his job.  One can see how Mayfield did look suspicious, but it is also obvious that there was no clear-cut evidence linking him to terrorist attacks.

Despite the fact that the connections were foggy, the government still found it necessary to treat Mayfield as if his rights provided by the Constitution did not exist.  His conversations were wiretapped, his home and office were subject to secret searches, and he was jailed for two weeks. According to a post from the New York Times, he endured lockdown, strip searches, sleep deprivation, unsanitary living conditions, shackles and chains, threats, physical pain, and humiliation while he spent time in jail. Many people have trouble finding a moral justification behind treating known terrorists like that, let alone people who still have not been found guilty of anything.

The fact that this happened is something that America should be ashamed of.  This event should have opened up our eyes, and we should have made changes because of it, but this isn’t what happened at all.  The F.B.I. admits that they made a few mistakes, however the Justice Department concluded that government did not misuse its expanded counterterrorism powers under the Patriot Act.  Legally, nothing went wrong, but this event was a moral devastation.  When laws are immoral, they are supposed to be changed.  That is why the citizens of the United States need to get together to make sure that this can’t legally happen ever again.


  1. I agree with you that the Patriot Act is something that is in violation of some of our rights. However, I also believe that the Patriot act is a good thing. I do wish that our government would have looked at this bill a little longer and had some restriction put on this, like removing the “sneak and peak” warrants. Overall, this bill has helped bring more terrorists to justice than innocent people. Not everyone should be scared of this, only people who have links to radical extremists should be scared. For example the guy you mentioned did have a connection with someone who was a terrorist, although in Jared Loughner’s case the Patriot Act failed to stop a man who had some extreme views. I believe that this bill should be revisited by congress and be revised to better insure our security.
    By: Cory Cantor

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 9, 2011 @ 11:42 am | Reply

  2. The Patriot Act is an example of what is wrong with the American institution of government. I completely agree that the Act was rushed through Congress into law and may not be completely legal and certainly isn’t moral. Fear got the best of America in the early 2000s. Safety became the most important idea of the time, even over liberty and freedom of the American people. I have trouble understanding how people didn’t treat the Patriot Act like they did health care. Terrorism has killed only a few hundred people since 9/11. I’m not suggesting that the nation should forget about terrorism and there wouldn’t have been less deaths if we had, but it was blown completely out of proportion. The terrorists succeeded in their goals. In the same time frame, how many hundreds of thousands or millions of people have died due to lack of health insurance? I am simply saying that instead of spending almost a trillion dollars to fight terrorism at home and overseas and infringing upon our basic liberties, we as a nation could have better spent our money protecting many more of our people.

    -Phillip Schaefer

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 11, 2011 @ 12:34 pm | Reply

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