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War on Terrorism vs. The Bill of Rights
Conveniently capitalizing on the fear of another terrorist attack, the United States Department of Defense and other branches of the federal government have erected a series of security measures since September 11. The most notable of these is the so-called USA PATRIOT Act (HR-3162), passed in October of 2001. The whopping acronym stands for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism." Cloaked in parental protectiveness, the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act permits wiretapping without judicial orders, deportation of legal residents of the United States based on mere suspicion, secret searches of citizens' offices and homes, and a slew of other invasive measures. Many of the permissible acts included in the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act are discriminatory. Obviously, there is nothing "patriotic" about violating Fourth Amendment rights or stripping ordinary citizens from their basic civil liberties. In the name of the "war on terrorism," these bills and laws offer incredible powers to the FBI, the police, and to other governmental bodies. Years after the tragedy, millions of Americans are still willingly surrendering their personal rights and freedoms in favor of a false sense of security. The aura of paranoia that currently pervades the United States fuels the fascist measures supported by Attorney General Ashcroft, measures which have far-reaching implications for American citizens.
The fear-based attitude of many Americans permits the passing of future laws such as the proposed "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003." This would build upon the original 2001 USA PATRIOT Act by allowing secret detentions for suspected terrorists or conspirators and unlimited police spying. Moreover, the death penalty would be extended to those thought to be involved in terrorist activities and citizenship could be stripped from anyone accused of supporting a "terrorist organization." The definition of a "terrorist organization" would be left up to the federal government. Proponents of these drastic measures rely on fear, paranoia, and even racism to garner support. Congressman Robert Scott (D-Virginia) agreed that the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act would "safeguard against abuses," (McCullagh). Racial profiling at airports is supported by a substantial number of citizens, most of whom have never suffered the humiliation of unwarranted detention based on skin color. Because Muslims and Arabs are unfairly targeted by these acts, they are basically government-sanctioned racism. However, conservative politicians and theorists do not agree, instead stating the necessity for racial profiling and targeting of mainstream Muslim religious groups.
The problem with this approach is that the civil rights of American citizens, legal residents, and visitors is violated. Most Americans would be willing to undergo enhanced security checks at airports. In fact, Gore Vidal, in his article "The New War on Freedom," cites a CNN/Times poll conducted a few days after the terrorist attacks of September 11 which showed that 74% of people believe "it would be necessary for Americans to give up some of their personal freedoms," (Vidal). However, in the wake of the terrorist attacks, the federal government was able to sneak the U.S.A. PATRIOT act by Congress and the American people. Without protest, Americans are giving up their power to law enforcement agencies, under the assumption that some loss of freedom is necessary.
In her article "The U.S.A. Patriot Act and the U.S. Department of Justice: Losing Our Balances?" Susan Herman states, "Congress has been consistently funneling power to the President and his Executive branch subordinates, while minimizing its own role, as well as the role of the judiciary, in the decisions that are to be made about the conduct of our foreign as well as our domestic war." The aftermath of September 11 has entailed almost a restructuring of the federal government, as the system of checks and balances is placed on the backburner. By placing too much power in the hands of the FBI and Department of Defense, the American public will suffer for years to come. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is the perfect example of newly created imbalances. The INS is under the rubric of the Department of Justice, which enables Attorney General Ashcroft to make sweeping decisions that will affect the lives of millions of immigrants. The Chief Immigration Judge for the INS, Michael Creppy, and Johnny N. Williams, the Executive Associate Field Commissioner for Field Operations for the INS, are right in line with Ashcroft in providing for…[continue]
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