“The American people are beginning to realize that this piece of legislation poses a threat to our God-given freedoms protected by the U. S. Constitution. ” In the following viewpoint, John F. McManus claims that the USA Patriot Act, which was passed in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, gives the president authority and powers that are not limited to the pursuit of terrorists. McManus warns that the act licenses snooping on U. S. citizens, including the seizure of business records, the collecting of e-mails, and the wiretapping of phone calls.
He sees these executive powers as evidence of “empire building,” not respect for the Constitution and the constraints of the presidential office. McManus suggests that Congress limit these powers as the Patriot Act comes up for renewal. Within a month of the printing of McManus’s views, however, Congress chose to extend the majority of the privileges granted by the act. John F. McManus is president of the John Birch Society, an organization dedicated to preserving individual liberty. As you read, consider the following questions: 1.
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What evidence does McManus give for claiming that the Patriot Act was initially rushed through Congress? 2. According to the author, why does President George W. Bush believe the Patriot Act needs to be renewed? It’s one thing to add a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down. But it’s quite another to go to enormous lengths to convince a patient that the medicine itself is the sugar. Yet this is substantially what the [George W. ] Bush administration and its allies in the building of an imperial presidency did when they labeled their grasp for power “The Patriot Act. The act’s full name is “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001. ” Rushed through Congress in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it has long been touted as a necessary tool to prevent more attacks. Containing over 500 pages of detailed and lawyer-like verbiage, it is certain that no member had an opportunity to study it before being asked to approve it. Unchecked Snooping While no one can doubt that the federal government should have responded to the 9/11 treachery, the American people are beginning to realize that this iece of legislation poses a threat to our God-given freedoms protected by the U. S. Constitution. For instance, the act increases the ability of law enforcement to search homes and business records secretly; it expands wiretapping and surveillance authority; and it creates an entirely new mechanism for obtaining proper search warrants and then engaging in electronic snooping of email, telephone calls, and internet messaging. Under its provisions, persons ordered to turn over business records are not permitted to contact an attorney or seek the protection of the courts.
Further, its provisions are far from clearly stated, giving almost free rein to federal officials to use the act and then rely on the courts to uphold the legitimacy of what they have done. Those who wrote the act expected resistance to its sweeping grants of power, so they added a “sunset” provision stipulating that some of its surveillance powers “shall cease to have effect on December 31, 2005. ” President Bush wants the entire act extended but many in Congress, buttressed with years to study it and learn of its dangers to liberty, have seen enough and want to bury its extremely controversial portions.
So, the compromisers took over. Prior to the December 31 expiration date Congress voted to extend the sunset provision five weeks, to February 3. On that date, some of the most intrusive surveillance powers in the bill???such as using “roving” wiretaps, searching property without notifying its owner, and scrutinizing business records, books, and other documents???will die, unless those powers are again extended or (as the president wants) are made permanent. No Extensions What’s at stake here are provisions of the Bill of Rights.
Do we or do we not have the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee that all Americans shall “be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizure”? Do we or don’t we have assurance that such a God-given right “shall not be violated” without a warrant demonstrating “probable cause, supported by Oath of affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized”? Provisions of the Patriot Act now set to expire effectively cancel this essential guarantee. President Bush has repeatedly insisted that all of the Patriot Act is needed because “we’re still at ar,” a war he boastfully claims was launched on “my decision” and nobody else’s. His disdain for the constitutional requirement that only Congress can send the nation into war, and his desire to trash the 4th Amendment, are indications of empire building, not limited government under the Constitution. These developments surely threaten the preservation of freedom that has long characterized our nation’s hard-won republic. No matter what Mr. Bush may claim, the main issue here isn’t the protection of the American people from terrorism. Doing so can be accomplished without trampling on the Constitution.
The issue is whether our national government will be properly limited or become all powerful. Ominously growing presidential power must be reined in. An increasingly docile Congress can begin the needed process by refusing to extend the Patriot Act’s most dangerous surveillance powers. Blocking their renewal will send a message to the president and his administration that they possess only limited powers and do not have a blank check to build an empire. Although a number of its provisions are not controversial, the USA PATRIOT Act nevertheless stands out as radical in its design.
To an unprecedented degree, the Act sacrifices our political freedoms in the name of national security and upsets the democratic values that define our nation by consolidating vast new powers in the executive branch of government. Congress and the Administration have demonstrated their eagerness to sacrifice civil liberties in hopes of gaining an added measure of security. The task of upholding the Bill of Rights???or acquiescing in its surrender???will soon fall to the judiciary, as lawsuits testing the constitutionality of the USA PATRIOT Act wind their way through the courts. But whats more dangerous terrorist or an ominipotent government
One of the most significant features of the Act is a new, broader definition given to terrorism. The definition now also includes “domestic,” as contrasted with international terrorism. Section 802 states that a person engages in domestic terrorism if they do any act “dangerous to human life” that is a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the United States, if that action appears to be intended to: (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.
Further, the act or acts must take place primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Sooner of later we could be the terrorists The Patriot Act Violates Civil Liberties A History of Suppression There were other instances in American history when the government adopted extraordinary measures to suppress unpopular political views or arrest those suspected of being disloyal to the United States. During the Civil War, President [Abraham] Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus.
As a result tens of thousands of Americans suspected of being disloyal to the Union were arrested and held without charges by the military. During World War I, and the Red Scare, as many as 10,000 resident aliens, targeted because of their political views, were arrested, interrogated, jailed, and beaten to force them to sign confessions. Raids were carried out in over 30 cities and some 500 “aliens” were deported. During World War II, President Roosevelt issued an executive order for the forced internment of 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry living on the U. S. West Coast.
Two-thirds of those placed in so-called preventive detention, under harsh conditions, were U. S. citizens against whom there was no evidence of collaboration with the Japanese. During the Cold War, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when fears of communism were fueled by certain U. S. political leaders and anti-Communist hysteria was rampant, leaders of the American Communist Party were criminally prosecuted and imprisoned under the Smith Act for their political beliefs. The House Un-American Activities Committee carried out a witch hunt of suspected Communists and so-called “fellow travelers. Thousands of Americans were subpoenaed and called to testify about their own and other Americans’ political affiliations and activities. Those who refused to testify were held in contempt and imprisoned. In other instances, college professors and other employees were forced to sign so-called loyalty oaths or lose their jobs. Big Brother is Watching You”(Orwell 5). This simple phrase has become the cornerstone of the conspiracy theorists dialog. George Orwell may have writing a cautionary novel with 1984, but there is little possibility that he could have foreseen how close to reality his novel would truly become.
In the past 50 years, the world has become a much more dangerous place. Along with this danger has come a call for governments to do more to protect their citizens. This Protection has changed over the years, but it has become more and more invasive in order to “protect” the populations from various “threats”. Orwell introduces the reader to a future where the government monitors every citizen through a “telescreen”. These telescreens broadcast news and various government sanctioned facts at all times, but they also, “Received and transmitted simultaneously……