Homeland Security Essay

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Homeland Security

Questioning the Legality of the Patriot Act

The Department of Homeland Security

After the September 11 attacks, the United States was, undoubtedly, in a state of fury, sadness, desperation and general turmoil. Our country's iconic positivity had to be rebuilt, and threats, above everything else, had to be kept at bay and far away from U.S. soil. The State Department undertook a number of policies to achieve this goal, and one of these policies was instituting a department that would be able to share information with both the CIA and the FBI, as well as focus on the things that the two previous agencies had missed at such a high cost. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as this body was called, would thus be able to not only work with fellow governmental institutions, but also monitor foreign and domestic threats. Yet, as it often happens, nobody is truly sure where threats come from, and the DHS was given various powers in the form of presidential directives, including those relating to the Patriot Act.

The USA PATIOT Act of 2001

In the aftermath of the same attacks, Congress also voted on a number of laws that were to be known as the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001)[footnoteRef:1], which were signed into law by President Bush. This Act undertook a campaign to essentially monitor both American citizens and aliens by employing various privacy-invading policies (i.e. wiretapping and monitoring of funds) that sparked a feverish debate. Some would state that this Act went against the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, and others would deem it necessary in order to keep our country safe. [1: Acronyms: USA PATRIOT Act of 2001. (2011). The Free Dictionary. Retrieved October 20, 2011, from < http://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/USA+PATRIOT+ACT >.]

Linkages and Legality

The DHS eventually took some laws out of the Act, and utilized them to achieve its scopes. As recently as May of this year, President Obama signed an extension of some of the policies of the Act, thereby enabling the DHS to continue to utilize various aspects in order to "protect the country." This paper will thus analyze the Patriot Act, how it relates to national security, and will also question its legality and determine whether this act was legally sound.

It is important to mention here what the process of utilizing the Act directives is for the DHS. Though this body does not necessarily utilize the Act itself directly, when it is given a mandate by the president (through presidential provisions), it relies upon powers legalized in the Patriot Act to legally carry out its mandate. For example, in the Homeland Security Presidential Directive-7 of 2003, the body was asked to look at Critical Infrastructure Identification, Prioritization, and Protection by the U.S. President. In this directive, various components were set out, including:

1. Purpose -- the directive established a "national policy for Federal departments and agencies to identify and prioritize United States critical infrastructure and key resources and to protect them from terrorist attacks."

2. Background -- the directive described that "terrorists seek to destroy, incapacitate, or exploit critical infrastructure and key resources across the United States to threaten national security, cause mass casualties, weaken our economy, and damage public morale and confidence" and explained that the well-being of these key resources is vital for the well-being of the country.

3. Definitions -- the directive also set out to define various components, including that "critical infrastructures" mean (see section 1016(e) of the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act of 2001 (42 U.S.C. 5195c (e)).

4. Policy -- the directive further expanded upon its previously stated point that the U.S. must protect, at any cost, its civilians, and its resources and infrastructure.[footnoteRef:2] [2: All points taken from: Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7: Critical Infrastructure Identification, Prioritization, and Protection. (2003). Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved October 20, 2011, from < http://www.dhs.gov/xabout/laws/gc_1214597989952.shtm#content >.]

With these four points the President thus gave the DHS a mandate, that it had to carry out, and the DHS, in turn, referenced various points related to the Patriot Act in order to establish authority to carry this out.

Having established, above, the linkage between the DHS and the Patriot Act, one must now focus on what the Act actually requires, as well as whether it is actually legal. As aforementioned, the act sparked quite a heated debate. Essentially, the Act requires agencies, such as the DHS,…

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