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.


Security: Is Our Government Unnecessarily Invading Our Privacy?

Filed under: Patriot Act — publicandprivatespace @ 9:40 am

By Kelly Seibert

America is a country of freedom, privacy, and personal space. With all the land from California to Maine, between Canada and Mexico, we use the space the way we want to. From spread out farmlands in the countryside to big, busy cities crammed with apartments, everyone has their own way of establishing their own privacy and personal space. But no matter where you live or how private you think your life is, the United States government can be one warrant away from hearing every telephone conversation that passes through your phone lines.

The government has been wiretapping America’s phone lines since 1928, but it wasn’t until fifty years afterwards that a court order was required. In times of war the warrant can be temporarily ignored, but not for long. President George W. Bush took advantage of this leniency by tasking the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect phone call records from across the country—without warrants—over the course of several years. I realize the urgency of having to prove or disprove a dangerous suspect of a plot of terrorism. The warrant can be acquired afterwards when time isn’t as much of an issue, but President Bush never backtracked to request a warrant. Judge Vaughn R. Walker believes that what President Bush did was clearly illegal. And I agree with him.

The NSA, an agency of the federal government, was created by President Truman in 1952 to protect America from foreign attacks. The NSA continues to wiretap our phone lines—now with warrants—but they aren’t the only ones with court approved access. Local police officers can obtain warrants from the state government to wiretap suspected criminals and drug dealers. In 2009, 96% of wiretaps led to the arrest of drug traffickers, who aren’t immediately threatening when compared to a protester with a bomb in his backpack. Wiretapping was once used for protecting our country from other country threats, but now the process is being used against us for less threatening crimes. It might not be illegal but it is unconstitutional. And the number of approved wiretaps increased over the course of the last decade, proof for all of which can be found in Ryan Singel’s article on police wiretapping.

Five years ago, the internet was believed to be one place where the government had little influence. My seventh grade English teacher asked the class (rather sarcastically) how long we thought that would last. And now Barack Obama is trying to extend the current wiretapping policy to grant warranted access to internet-required networking applications, such as Facebook and Blackberry cell phones. President Obama voiced his objection of the wiretapping policy when President Bush was in office, but now he peers in through every American’s front window by accepting the policy instead of fixing it to be more in-line with the constitution. Clearly, the government will not be satisfied until they have every citizen monitored like goldfish in a fishbowl. A more in-depth report can be found here.

Allowing the government to gain warranted access to our personal lives is not good for our country. We broke away from England and its ever watching eye to become our own, independent country. Now the same issue is happening with our own government. The American people have sat by for too long letting our government track our every movement because of a warrant. Being fully aware of the position our government has placed us in and having done nothing about it, very little will prevent our “democracy” from becoming totalitarian if the government chooses to make that change. I understand that some wiretaps are necessary to protect Americans from another foreign invasion, but can we believe that every tap ever performed was for the protection of the citizens of this country? Americans need to be more aware of how the government overrides the rights guaranteed to us in the United States Constitution. Warranted or not, it can no longer be ignored that the government is slowly taking over our natural right of privacy.

March 6, 2011

Patriot Act:

Filed under: Patriot Act — publicandprivatespace @ 10:11 pm

By Garrett Miller

The United States government has a very controversial issue in the Patriot Act. Within the act they have a part that talks about how the government has the right to look at the library records of individuals throughout the country. The government is looking for certain types of books that relate to like weapons or certain landmarks. Many people think that this part of the patriot act effects people’s privacy. Is the government looking act taking personal freedoms away from Americans?

In Andrew Miga’s article on Washington Post he says that a librarian had FBI agents demand the records of people who get books there, but the librarian says that this is stripping away personal freedoms. They say that the government is doing this without proper judicial overlook. People are saying that the government should have to obtain a search warrant before looking at people’s personal records. George Christian says that “terrorist win when the fear of them induces us to destroy the rights that make us free.” George is the director of 27 libraries in the Hartford Connecticut area, some of which have been investigated by the government. People are thinking the same thing that George is thinking. The government is taking our freedoms away. The government can also prosecute the librarians if they tell anyone that they are being investigated by the government. The government isn’t saying if this is actually working to catch terrorist. But one thing is certain. The American people’s rights are being tampered with.

The library provisions in the Patriot Act are probably the most controversial issues within the act. But this part of the Patriot Act is causing peoples constitutional rights to be tampered with. When the FBI is looking at the records of people who used certain libraries, the librarians were contacted and told they could not tell anyone and if they did they would be prosecuted. There are several instances where this occurs.

For instance, in Andrew Miga’s article from the Washington Post said that “In 2005, the FBI issued a national security letter to Christian and three other Connecticut librarians. The letter sought computer subscriber data for a 45-min period on Feb. 15 2005, during which a terrorist threat was thought to have been transmitted. A gag order prevented the librarians form talking about the letter”. It seems like this goes against our first amendment right which states “Protects the freedom of religion, speech, and the press, as well as the right to assemble and petition the government”. It is clearly stated in our Constitution that we have the freedom of speech. Having a gag order on the librarians would infringe on their right to free speech.

In article 11 of the Declaration it states that “The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.” Our Fore Fathers intended the first amendment to protect our citizen’s rights to free speech. But it looks like we don’t care about how the beliefs of our country were founded. In lisa Fritscher’s article on Life Script, she says that, “Freedom of speech began to erode as many worried that the most innocuous of statements, particularly those made publicly, could lead to persecution.” But the library provisions aren’t the only controversial issues within the act. So as you can see, the library and wire tapping parts of the Patriot Act are infringing upon the right of the American People.