Political Science the USA Patriot Act Congress Term Paper

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Political Science

The USA Patriot Act

Congress passed the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act in response to the terrorists' attacks of September 11, 2001. The Act gives federal officials larger authority to follow and seize communications, both for law enforcement and foreign intelligence gathering reasons. It gives the Secretary of the Treasury with regulatory powers to fight corruption of U.S. financial institutions for foreign money laundering reasons. It seeks to further shut the countries borders to foreign terrorists and to restrain and remove those that are within the borders. It fashions new crimes, new penalties, and new procedural efficiencies for use in opposition to domestic and international terrorists. Even though it is not without safeguards, critics challenge some of its provisions go too far. Although it allows a lot of the enhancements sought by the Department of Justice, others are worried that it does not go far enough (Doyle, 2002).

The intention of the U.S.A. Patriot Act is to discourage and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to improve law enforcement investigatory tools, and other purposes, some of which include:

To reinforce U.S. measures to avert, detect and prosecute international money laundering and funding of terrorism;

To subject to extraordinary scrutiny foreign jurisdictions, foreign financial institutions, and classes of international transactions or kind of accounts that are vulnerable to criminal abuse;

To necessitate all suitable elements of the financial services industry to report possible money laundering;

To strengthen measures to avert use of the U.S. financial system for personal gain by dishonest foreign officials and make possible repatriation of stolen assets to the citizens of countries to whom such assets belong (USA PATRIOT Act, n.d.).

The Patriot Act permits investigators to use the tools that were previously accessible to examine organized crime and drug trafficking. A lot of the apparatus the Act provides to law enforcement to battle terrorism have been used for decades to battle organized crime and drug dealers, and have been evaluated and approved by the courts. The act also permits law enforcement to employ surveillance against more crimes of terror. Prior to the Patriot Act, courts could authorize law enforcement to carry out electronic surveillance to investigate a lot of commonplace, non-terrorism offenses, such as drug crimes, mail fraud, and passport fraud. Agents also could get hold of wiretaps to examine some, but not all, of the crimes that terrorists frequently commit. "The Act enables investigators to gather information when looking into the full range of terrorism-related crimes, including: chemical-weapons offenses, the use of weapons of mass destruction, killing Americans abroad, and terrorism financing" (The U.S.A. PATRIOT Act: Preserving Life and Liberty, n.d.).

The law allows the federal agents to pursue sophisticated terrorists trained to avoid detection. For a long time, law enforcement has been capable to use roving wiretaps to examine normal crimes, including drug offenses and racketeering. A roving wiretap can be approved by a federal judge to be relevant to a particular suspect, rather than a particular phone or communications apparatus. "Because international terrorists are sophisticated and trained to foil surveillance by quickly changing locations and communication devices such as cell phones, the Act authorizes agents to ask for court permission to utilize the same techniques in national security examinations to track terrorists" (The U.S.A. PATRIOT Act: Preserving Life and Liberty, n.d.).

The law permits law enforcement to carry out investigations without tipping off terrorists. In some instances if criminals are made aware too early to an investigation, they might run away, demolish evidence, threaten or kill witnesses, stop contact with associates, or take other action in order to avoid arrest. Consequently, federal courts in narrow conditions long have permitted law enforcement to delay for a restricted time when the person is told that a judicially permitted search warrant has been completed. Notice is always provided, but the logical delay gives law enforcement time to recognize the criminal's associates, get rid of immediate threats to communities, and organize the arrests of multiple people without tipping them off in advance. "These postponed notification search warrants have been used for decades, have demonstrated to be crucial in drug and organized crime cases, and have been endorsed by courts as completely constitutional" (The U.S.A. PATRIOT Act: Preserving Life and Liberty, n.d.).

The Act also permits federal agents to ask a court for an order to get business records in national security terrorism instances. Looking at business records frequently provides the evidence that investigators are looking for to resolve a broad range of crimes. Investigators might look at specific records from different stores or chemical plants, for instance, in order to find out who purchased materials to make a bomb, or bank records to see whose providing money to terrorists. Law enforcement authorities have forever been able to get hold of business records in criminal cases through grand jury subpoenas, and persist to do so in national security cases where fitting. In national security cases where utilization of the grand jury process was not proper, investigators formerly had limited tools at their disposal to get hold of certain business records. "Under the Patriot Act, the government can now ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (a federal court), if desired to aid an investigation, to order production of the same kind of records accessible through grand jury subpoenas. This federal court, though, can give these orders only after the government shows the records concerned are required for an authorized investigation to get hold of foreign intelligence information not pertaining to a U.S. person or to defend against international terrorism or secret intelligence activities, provided that such explorations of a U.S. person is not carried out solely on the foundation of activities protected by the First Amendment" (The U.S.A. PATRIOT Act: Preserving Life and Liberty, n.d.).

There are many parts of the Act that have been very controversial over the years. Sections 203(b) and 203(d) of the Patriot Act are at the center of the endeavor to break down the wall that previously divided criminal and intelligence investigations. The Justice Department has regularly blamed the wall for the breakdown to find and detain Sept. 11 hijackers prior to the attacks. The government says that accessible procedures made investigators fearful of giving out information between the intelligence and criminal sides of the investigation. Supporters say these requirements have really improved information distribution within the FBI, and with the intelligence population at large. Civil libertarians say the breakdown to share information was mainly a result of ineffectiveness and mistake of the law. "Critics say that investigators should have to explain why information is being shared, and that only information related to terrorism or espionage should be released. They warn that unrestricted sharing could lead to the development of massive databases about innocent citizens" (Abramson & Godoy, 2066).

The Justice Department has long grumbled about limits that required separate court authorizations for each piece of equipment used by the target of an investigation. Section 206 expressly allows roving wiretaps against alleged spies and terrorists. The government says it has long had this kind of elasticity in criminal cases, and that such authority is needed in dealing with technically sophisticated terrorists. Surveillance experts point out, though, that criminal wiretaps must establish whether the person under investigation is going to be utilizing the device before the tap happens. Civil liberties groups say the lingo of the Patriot Act could lead to privacy violations of anyone who comes into informal contact with the suspect. They want Congress to necessitate investigators to state just which device is going to be tapped, or that the suspect be plainly identified, in order to guard against the innocent from unnecessary snooping (Abramson & Godoy, 2066).

Almost certainly the most fiercely contested provision of the law, Section 215 has come to be known as the libraries provision,…[continue]

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