Viewpoint One: The Patriot Act Fights Terrorism Paul Rosenzweig
Paul Rosenzweig is a professor of law at George Mason University. In the following essay he argues that the Patriot Act helps law enforcement agencies fight terrorism. Rosenzweig explains that the Patriot Act helps officers dismantle terror cells in various parts of the country. It also has been useful in prosecuting suspected terrorists and allowing intelligence agencies to share information. Rosenzweig maintains that the Patriot Act is important for preventing another terrorist attack like September 11, 2001. Falsehood, according to Mark Twain's famous dictum, gets halfway around the world before the truth even gets it shoes on. Time and again, outlandish stories seem to grow legs and find wide distribution before the truth can catch up.
A good example is the USA Patriot Act. It's so broadly demonized now; you'd never know it passed with overwhelming support in the days immediately after September 11, 2001. Critics paint the patriot act as a cauldron of abuse and a threat to civil liberties. Advocacy groups run ads depicting anonymous hands tearing up the Constitution and a tearful old man fearful to enter a bookstore. Prominent politicians who voted for the act call for a complete overhaul, if not outright repeal.
But the truth is catching up. And the first truth is that the patriot act was absolutely vital to protect America's security.
The Patriot Act Helps Catch Terrorists Before 911, US law enforcement and intelligence agencies were limited by law in what information they could share with each other. The patriot act tore down that wall and officials have praised the act’s value.
As former Atty. Gen. Janet Reno told the 9/11 commission, quote generally, quote generally, everything that's been done in the patriot act has been helpful, while at the same time maintaining the balance with respect to civil liberties."
And as former Atty. Gen. John Ashcraft's recent report to Congress makes clear, this change in the law has real, practical consequences. Information sharing facilitated by the patriot act, for example, was critical to dismantling terror cells found in Portland Oregon, Lackawanna New York, and Virginia. Likewise the acts information sharing provisions assisted the prosecution in San Diego of those involved with an Al Qaeda drugs-for-weapons plot involving “Stinger” antiaircraft missiles.
It also aided in the prosecution of him, our note, who had a long-standing relationship with Osama bin Laden and who used his charity organization to obtain funds illicitly from unsuspecting Americans for terrorist groups and to serve as a channel for people to contribute knowingly to such groups.
These are not trivial successes. They're part of an enormous, ongoing effort to protect America from further terrorist attacks.
A Critical Antiterrorist Tool We cannot, of course, say that the patriot act alone can stop terrorism. Every time we successfully use the new tools at our disposal to thwart a terrorist organization, that's a victory.
Yet remarkably, some of these vital provisions allowing the exchange of information between law enforcement and intelligence agencies will expire in 2006. So here's a second truth: if Congress does nothing, then parts of the law will return to where they were on the day before 911-2 a time when our government couldn't, by law, connect all the dots. Nobody wants a return to those days but that is where we are headed if Congress does not set aside its partisan debates.
Government’s obligation is a duel one: to provide security against violence and to preserve civil liberty. This is not a zero sum game. We can achieve both goals if we empower government to do sensible things while exercising oversight to prevent any real abuses of authority. The patriot act, with its reasonable extension of authority to allow the government to act effectively with appropriate oversight rules, meets this goal.
And the truth eventually catches up to the fiction.
Viewpoint Two: The Patriot Act Does Not Fight Terrorism
In the following essay author Bob Barr argues that the patriot act does not help law enforcement personnel fight terrorism. He contends that laws that existed prior to the patriot act were strong enough to fight terrorists; the problem is that they were not properly enforced. He accuses lawmakers of using the patriot act as an excuse to pass sweeping laws that threaten Americans freedom. He concludes that the patriot act offers Americans no real extra security. Barr represented Georgia in the US House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003.
The USA patriot act of 2001 and the proposed son of patriot act, that is the expanded patriot act laws, are now being debated in the Congress at the request of the Bush administration.
These are frightening loss. Left unchecked, they threatened the constitutional basis on which our society is premised: that citizens possess rights over their persons and property and that they retain those rights unless there is a sound, articulated, and specific reason for the government to take them away parentheses i.e. probable cause of criminal activity parentheses. The fourth amendment's guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure will have been gutted.
Possibly the measures contained in the patriot act, its proposed new offspring, and numerous other official surveillance measures now in effect or being planned were, as we're told, essential responses to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Possibly they are specifically tailored to meet such threats in the future, and the best and most efficient way to minimize the likelihood of such attacks. Perhaps then one should accept some of the encroachments on civil liberties as necessary and perhaps even worthwhile. But they are not.
Pre-patriot Act Laws Were Adequate. The terrorists who gained access to those for jetliners in the early morning of September 11, 2001, carried weapons that were already illegal on commercial aircraft. They were already in this country illegally, or had overstayed their lawful presence. Their pockets were stuffed with false identification. Their knowledge of the aircraft's performance and handling had been gathered in violation of federal law. Much of the information that could have alerted law enforcement officials to their horrendous plot was already within the possession of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The government had sufficient lawful power to identify and stop the plotters. It failed to do so.
Yet what was the response to this tragedy? Did a single federal agency or official come before the American people and say: "We're sorry. We had the power to stop these terrorists. We had sufficient money to have done so. We simply made mistakes and errors in judgment, which will now be corrected." Not a chance.
Instead, what we saw, and I saw personally, as a member of both the house judiciary committee and the government reform committee, was agency after agency, bureaucrat after bureaucrat come before us and say, quote you the Congress didn't give us enough legal power or money to stop these attacks. We need more money. We need more power." But not wishing to appear soft on terrorism, the Congress, not surprisingly, gave them very nearly whatever they asked for.
An Excuse to Grant Power And what they asked for definitely was not narrowly tailored, limited, or designed only to correct those specific provisions of existing laws that needed to be tweaked. What the pre-Roe Kratz sought, and largely got, were far-reaching powers that applied not just to anti-terrorism needs but to virtually all federal criminal laws. Changes to wiretapping laws, to search and seizures, easier access to tangible evidence, the list is long and complex. In a sense in essence, the attacks of September 11 provided an excuse for the executive branch to pull off the shelf, dust off, and push into law a whole series of proposals it had sought unsuccessfully for years.
Moreover, the direction Washington is now turning, making it easier to gather evidence on everyone within our borders, in an effort to develop profiles of terrorists and identify them amid the masses of data, is not likely to be particularly successful at thwarting terrorist attacks. As the CIA itself noted in an unclassified study reportedly conducted in 2001, terrorists typically take great pains to avoid being profiled: they don't want to get caught, and in fact it is essentially impossible to profile terrorists.
We Need Better Law Enforcement, Not Better Laws. The real way to catch terrorists is with better intelligence gathering, better coordination and analysis, better utilization of existing law enforcement tools, and quicker and more appropriate dissemination of that intelligence. The key word is better. With a few notable exceptions, the USA patriot act is a legislative grab bag that does little to encourage better law enforcement and intelligence work. Instead we have an unprecedented expansion of federal law enforcement powers that significantly diminishes the civil liberties of American citizens with only marginal increases in real security.
These fears are not, as some are saying, unfounded. And all I've done is scratch the surface of what is shaping up as a dramatic alteration to the very foundation of our society.
Viewpoint Three: The Patriot Act Reduces Freedom Al Gore
in the following speech delivered in Washington DC, former US vice president Al Gore explains several ways in which he believes the patriot act reduces Americans freedom. He argues that the legislation allows government to intrude on the privacy of Americans and take away their constitutional rights. In other times of crisis, Gore argues, the government has restricted the rights and liberties of Americans only to later realize that such acts were unconstitutional. He recommends the patriot act be replaced with milder legislation that better protects the freedom of American citizens.
I want to talk about. What has happened to civil liberties and security since the vicious attacks against America of September 11, 2001, and it's important to note at the outset that the administration and the Congress have brought about many beneficial and needed improvements to make law enforcement and intelligence community efforts more effective against potential terrorists. But a lot of other changes have taken place that a lot of people don't know about and that, as unwelcome surprises.
A Loss of Inalienable Rights
for example, for the first time in our history, American citizens have been seized by the executive branch of government and put in prison without being charged with a crime, without having the right to a trial, without being able to see a lawyer, and without even being able to can contact their families.
President Bush is claiming the unilateral right to do that to any American citizen he believes is an enemy combatant. Those are the magic words. If the president alone decides that those two words accurately describe someone, then that person can be immediately locked up and held incommunicado for as long as the president wants, with no court having the right to determine whether the facts actually justify his imprisonment.
Now if the president makes a mistake, or is given faulty information by somebody working for him, and locks up the wrong person, that it's almost impossible for that person to prove his innocence, because he can't talk to a lawyer or his family or anyone else and he doesn't even have the right to know what specific crimes he is accused of committing. So a constitutional right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we used to think of in an old-fashioned way as start quote in inalienable" can now be instantly stripped from any American by the president with no meaningful review by any other branch of government. How do we feel about that? Is that okay?
Authority to Spy on the Public
here's another recent change in our civil liberties: now, if it wants to, the federal government has the right to monitor every website you go to on the Internet, keep a list of everyone you send e-mail to or received e-mail from and everyone whom you call on the telephone or who calls you and they don't even have to show probable cause that you've done anything wrong. Nor do they ever have to report to any court on what they're doing with the information. Moreover, there are precious few safeguards to keep them from reading the content of all your e-mail. Everybody fine with that? If so, what about this next change??
For America's first 212 years, it used to be that if the police wanted to search your house, they had to be able to convince an independent judge to give them a search warrant and then with rare exceptions they had to go bang on your door and yell, start quote open up!" Then, if you didn't quickly open up, they could knock the door down. Also, if they see anything, they had to leave a list explaining what they had taken. That way if it was all a terrible mistake as it sometimes is you could go and get your stuff back.
But that's all changed now. Starting in 2001 federal agents were given broad new statutory authority by the patriot act to sneak and peek in non-terrorism cases they can secretly enter your home with no warning whether you are there or not and they can wait four months before telling you they were there. And it doesn't have to have any relationship to terrorism whatsoever. It applies to any garden-variety crime. And the new laws make it very easy to get around the need for a traditional war simply by stating that searching your house might have some connection, even a remote one, to the investigation of some agent of a foreign power. Then they can go to another court, a secret court that more or less has to give them a warrant whenever they ask.
Without Any Evidence of Criminal Behavior
or, to take another change and thanks to the librarians more people knew about this one, the FBI now has the right to go into any library and ask for the records of everybody who has used the library and get a list of who is reading what. Similarly, the FBI can demand all the records of banks, colleges, hotels, hospitals, credit card companies, and many more kinds of companies. And these changes are only the beginning. In November 2003 Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft issued brand new guidelines permitting FBI agents to run credit checks and background checks and gather other information about anyone who is, “of investigatory interest," meaning anyone the agent thinks is suspicious, without any evidence of criminal behavior. So is that fine with everyone?
I have studied the patriot act and have found that along with its many excesses, he kicked it contains a few needed changes in the law. And it is certainly true that many of the worst abuses of due process and civil liberties that are now occurring are taking place under the color of laws and executive orders other than the patriot act.
Nevertheless, I believe the patriot act has turned out to be, on balance, a terrible mistake. Therefore, I believe strongly that the few good features of this law should be passed again in a new, smaller law, but that the Patriot Act must be repealed.
Viewpoint Four: The Patriot Act Does Not Reduce Freedom James D. Zirin
James D. Zirin is a lawyer who practices in New York. In the following essay he argues that the patriot act ensures Americans security without curtailing their freedom. He explains that even though the patriot act allows the government greater access to the personal lives of Americans, the law contains checks and balances that prevent it from abusing this power. He views the patriot act as reasonable and useful legislation that does not disturb the liberties of Americans in any significant way.
The patriot act, overwhelmingly passed by Congress after September 11, 2001, alarms the American Civil Liberties Union, the Washington Post, the New York Times, government officials in 152 communities, and three states that have passed resolutions condemning this emergency measure.
To these critics, the bill smells of a George Bush plan to undermine civil liberties.
Patriot act paranoia A closer examination of facts suggests the paranoia is unjustified. Most of the patriot act is devoted to improving information sharing between the intelligence services and law enforcement. The anti-patriot act hysteria stems from a few provisions that merely fine-tuned investigative powers granted the government under pre-existing law. The never used library provisions extend FBI power for warrantless records searches without judicial scrutiny, even on people not themselves terror suspects. The sneak and peek provisions authorize the FBI after updating a warrant to secretly search homes, cars or offices of anyone, provided the investigation relates to terrorism. This significant change is the search is kept secret. Only law enforcement knows of it.
But is this so horrible? Remember, we are at war. If someone starts reading cookbooks on how to build a dirty bomb, isn't this something the authorities should look into? As for sneak and peek, it must be authorized by a federal judge satisfied the authorities have reason to suspect terrorism.
In other words, the streamlined investigative provisions make it simpler for FBI agents to obtain from phone companies, Internet service providers and other communications companies relevant information, such as e-mail subject lines and cell phone logs, that might foretell a terrorist plot. But even these can be used only after getting administrative subpoenas known as national security letters. The act bars recipients of the letters from disclosing to their customers or anyone else that the government scrutinized the records this prevents alerting terrorists that they are under inquiry. It also guarantees protection of innocent persons privacy.
We Are at War
Already the act seems to be producing results. Since 2001, the Justice Department says, as a result of terrorism investigations, it has charged at least 310 defendants with criminal offenses, 179 of whom have been convicted. Many fewer terrorists are on the loose, thanks in part to the act. Results like this help explain why dedicated public servants like former New York mayors Rudolph Giuliani and Ed Koch, ex-CIA director James Wolseley and 66 other prominent citizens have written congressional leaders in support of the act.
So what's all the fuss about anyway? After all we are at war, and, indeed, the patriot act is benign as compared with the deeds of such noted libertarians as Abraham Lincoln, who suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War, and Franklin Roosevelt, Earl Warren and Hugo Black who authorized the Japanese American internment during World War II.
A Manhattan federal judge in September 2004, dealing with a predecessor statute, in validated patriot act procedures for getting information from an Internet service provider. The media were delighted. The Washington Post blared, start quote key part of patriot act ruled unconstitutional." The New York Times trumpeted, start quote Judge strikes down selection of the patriot act." No such luck. Both papers later admitted they were wrong. Both papers published a correction on the Internet the next day. The court decision focused not on the patriot act, but on the electronics communications privacy act of 1986, broadened in 1993 and again by the patriot act in 2001.
The Patriot Act is Reasonable
The knee-jerk reaction of both the Post and the New York Times reveals a tendency to fire before they aim or are ready. Or haps they see the patriot act as a club to bash former Atty. Gen. John Ashcraft. There is much not to admire in Mr. Ashcroft, but, as the September 11 commission observed: start quote the choice between security and liberty is a false choice, as nothing is more likely to endanger America's liberties than the success of a terrorist attack at home. Our history has shown us that insecurity threatens liberty. Yet if our liberties are curtailed, we lose the values that we are struggling to defend."
I have read the act carefully, and agree with 99 senators that it is a reasonable way to strengthen intelligence and law enforcement against our sworn enemies while doing no significant damage to traditional liberties.
Viewpoint Five: The Patriot Act Unfairly Targets Immigrants David Cole
Atty. David Cole is the legal affairs correspondent for the nation magazine and the author of enemy aliens: double standards and Constitutional freedoms in the war on terrorism. In the following essay he argues the patriot act is anti-immigrant. He gives several examples of immigrants who have been forced to leave the country for exercising their right to free speech and for associating with radical political organizations. Cole argues that people who carry passports from other countries do not deserve fewer rights than Americans and should not be cast out as potential terrorists.
The patriot act debate is on sort of. Congress has until the end of 2005 to decide whether to re-authorized 16 start quote sunset did" provisions of the act that would otherwise expire on December 31. But if patriot act opponents are expecting great things, they will be disappointed. Many of the worst provisions of the act are not even up for discussion. Among the most troubling provisions not sunset that are those on immigration. They authorized the government to deny entry to foreigners because of speech rather than actions, to deport even permanent residents who innocently supported disfavored political groups and to lock up foreign nationals without charges.
Patriot act proponents often insist that there have been no abuses of the act, but the laws immigration provisions have clearly been abused. In one case, the government ordered an Indian man deported for having set up a tent for religious prayer and food, simply because unnamed members of a terrorist organization were allegedly among those who came to services at the tent. In a case I am handling for the Center for Constitutional rights, the government is seeking to the port to long-time permanent residence for having distributed PLL or Palestine Liberation Organization magazines in Los Angeles in the 1980s, and for having organized to Palestinian community dinners at which they raised money for humanitarian causes. The government considers it is relevant that distributing magazines and raising humanitarian aid was entirely lawful, even constitutionally protected, at the time.
The government has also used the patriot acts immigration provisions to revoke the visa of to wreak Ramadan, a Swiss professor and a leading thinker on Islam's relation to Monarch modern entity. Ramadan, one of the first prominent Muslim scholars to condemn the 9/11 attacks, had been offered a prestigious chair at Notre Dame. Yet the government revoked his visa on the basis of something he said, without ever informing him of what it was. More recently, the government denied a visa to Dora Maria Tellabs, and a karate and invited to teach at Harvard, solely because of her association with the Sandinistas, a radical party in Nicaragua in the 1980s.
Targeting the Vulnerable So the patriot act imposes guilt by association, punishes speech, authorizes the use of secret evidence and allows detention without charges, yet none of that will be subject to the patriot act debates. Nor will the debates addressed the civil liberty abuses committed by US law enforcement agencies or the military outside the Patriot Act, such as the incommunicado detention, without charges or hearings, of hundreds of enemy combatants around the world: the use of immigration law to launch a nationwide campaign of ethnic profiling and to detain more than 5000 foreign nationals, virtually all Arabs or Muslims, none of whom have been convicted of a terrorist crime.
Many of the most pernicious aspects of the patriot act, and of the war on terror generally, affect foreign nationals exclusively, or nearly exclusively. The acts immigration provisions haven't generated the same concern as the surveillance provisions, not because they are less problematic but because they apply only to them, not us. The same is true with respect to practices like torture and rendition, tactics largely reserved for foreign nationals, which have failed to generate the kind of grassroots concern that the libraries provision has.
There is no logical or legal reason why a foreign student living here should have fewer privacy or speech rights than her US citizen classmate. The reason is political; it is always easier to impose such burdens on the most vulnerable.
Rights for All, Not Just Americans A more promising strategy for the long haul, particularly given the anti-alien character of so many initiatives in the war on terror, would be to emphasize a human rights approach. Human rights, after all, are owed to every person, by virtue of their human dignity, their respective of the passport they carry. As a strategic matter, human rights campaigns can tap into the power of world opinion and bring it to bear at home, especially when the United States selectively abuses the rights of other countries nationals.
Viewpoint Six: The Patriot Act Does Not Target Immigrants Michelle Malkin
Michelle Malkin is a contributor to capitalism Magazine, from which this viewpoint was taken. In the viewpoint Malcolm argues that the patriot act contains useful immigration laws that help remove potential terrorists from the country. She claims it has helped fingerprint and arrest many suspected terrorists and prevented others from entering the country. She also points out the drafter of the patriot act is himself an immigrant, dispelling myths that the act is anti-immigrant. Malkin concludes that the United States must be very careful about who comes in and out of the country if it is to avoid another terrorist attack.
To civil liberties alarmists, Viet Dinh is a traitor. To me he is him American hero.
Dinh, 35, is widely known and reviled as the primary architect of the Patriot Act. Until May of 2003, he was an assistant attorney general for the office of legal policy in John Ashcroft's Justice Department. He stepped down to return to his law school post at Georgetown University. Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dinh told the Christian Science Monitor, “Our nation's ability to defend itself against terror has been not only my vocation but my obsession."
This Fourth of July holiday, I will give thanks for those like Dinh who have worked tirelessly to ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and secure the blessings of liberty that no other country in the world can match.
Enforcing Immigration Laws Fights Terror A constitutional law expert, Dinh’s office has been mostly concerned with judicial nominations before September 11. After the mass murder of 3000 men women and children on American soil, Dinh became an instrumental member of the brain trust that designed the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policies. Most importantly, the Patriot Act revised outdated rules that fatally hampered surveillance of suspected terrorists in America. Dinh also helped craft plans to monitor the entry and exit of foreign students and to register and track nonimmigrant visitors from high risk Middle Eastern countries.
An immigrant himself who escaped from communist Vietnam a quarter-century ago aboard a rickety boat, Dinh notes that foreign visitors to our shores our guests obligated to obey the laws, some of which have not been enforced for 50 years. It was time, Dinh and his colleagues decided to start enforcing them. The results speak for themselves: the feds have lasted more than 20 suspected out Qaeda cell members from Buffalo New York to Detroit, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon.
More than 100 other individuals have been convicted or pled guilty to terrorist related crimes.
The United States has deported 515 individuals linked to the September 11 investigation. Hundreds of foreign criminals and suspected terrorists, plus one known member of Al Qaeda, were prevented from entering the country thanks to the national entry exit registration system, which Sen. Ted Kennedy attempted to sabotage earlier in 2003.
Long overdue fingerprint crosschecks of immigration and FBI databases at the border have resulted in the arrest of more than 5000 fugitives, wanted for crimes committed in the United States.
And nearly 2 years after the September 11 attacks, there has not yet been another mass terrorist attack on our homeland.
Anti-Immigration Claims are Untrue Opponents of the Bush administration's homeland defense and immigration enforcement efforts complained that the war on terror has eviscerated civil liberties and constitutional rights. They have falsely portrayed the patriot act as allowing the feds to spy on library patrons without a warrant or criminal suspicion, a lie perpetuated by the truth challenged New York Times. They have hysterically compared the detention of illegal aliens from terror friendly countries to the World War II internment of Japanese. And they have likened Ashcroft, Dinh, and the Justice Department to the Taliban and Nazis. Never mind that the courts have so far upheld every major initiative and tactic from keeping immigration deportation hearings closed, to maintaining secrecy of the names of illegal alien detainees, to allowing use of the patriot act surveillance powers.
Dinh is refreshingly unapologetic and to the point in response to the alarmists: “The threat to liberty comes from Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, not from the men and women in blue who work to uphold the law." Drawing on Edmund Burke's theory of “Ordered Liberty,” which argues that liberty cannot be exercised unless government has first provided civil order, Dinh observes: “I think security exists for liberty to flourish and liberty cannot exist without order and security."
On July 4, this fundamental lesson of September 11 must not be forgotten. The charred earth, mangled steel, crashing glass, fiery chaos and ever eviscerated bodies are indelible reminders that the blessings of liberty in America do not secure themselves.