The Patriot Act was enacted into law in 2001 to unite and strengthen America through the provision of suitable tools that are necessary to interrupt and barricade terrorism acts. This legislation was established with the dignified intention of identifying and indicting international terrorists operating on the United States' soil ("USA Patriot Act," n.d.). The Act, which amended more than 15 several statues, consists of different provisions that recommend concluding the information-sharing gaps amongst different governmental agencies. Compliance with the Patriot Act is the foundation for political and monetary support for projects that may be technically viable. However, regardless of the good intentions of the legislation, it has raised various perspectives since its enactment. Consequently, it's important to examine the ethical and homeland security implications of the Patriot Act especially in regards to its authorization of surveillance and search & seizure.
Provisions of the Patriot Act:
With the aim of providing suitable tools that help in intercepting and thwarting terrorism, the Patriot Act has various provisions including:
Access to Records Provision:
According to section 215 of this legislation, the government has the authority of acquiring any tangible records that are relevant to a terrorism investigation regardless of the lack of any connection between the material and terrorism activities or suspected terrorists. Unlike the traditional concepts of search and seizure, the provision does not require the government to prove considerable suspicion before conducting investigations that breach a person's privacy.
Roving Wiretaps Provision:
The other provision in the Patriot Act allows the government to acquire intelligence surveillance orders without revealing the person's identity or facility to be tapped. This is contrary to traditional concepts of search and seizure where the government must state the specific details of what it seeks to search or seize.
This provision permits information from criminal investigations to be shared with intelligence agencies and other governmental departments. The main objective behind this provision is to eliminate obstacles that separate criminal and intelligence investigations. This is contrary to existing procedures where investigators fear sharing information between criminal and intelligence side of the investigations. Notably, the provision permits unrestricted sharing since investigators don't need to disclose and explain the information being shared (Abramson & Godoy, 2006).
Impact of the Patriot Act of Counter-Terrorism Efforts:
Since it enactment, the Patriot Act has played a significant role in various successful operations toward protecting Americans from terrorist activities. While the legislation has attracted a significant measure of criticism, it has improves the country's counter-terrorism efforts in various ways including & #8230;
Allowing Investigators to utilize Necessary Tools in Various Crimes:
America's counterterrorism efforts have been improved by the Patriot Act which permits investigators to utilize necessary and available tools in investigating organized crime and drug trafficking. The Act has provided many tools to law enforcement agencies in their fight against terrorists' activities. These tools, which have been approved and reviewed by courts, have been used for many years in fighting organized crime and drug dealers. The efforts have also been improved by allowing law enforcement agencies to use surveillance against more terror crimes.
Facilitation of Information-sharing and Cooperation:
The Patriot Act has improved counter-terrorism efforts by removing the major legal hurdles that prohibited law enforcement, intelligence and national defense departments from coordinating in their attempts to protect people and promote national security. The facilitation of information sharing has resulted in coordination among various departments in exposing terrorism plots before they are carried out. America's counter-terrorism efforts were inadequate prior to the enactment of the legislation because some governmental security departments had no idea of what other departments were doing.
Increased Penalties for Convicted Terrorists:
The enactment of the legislation has boosted counter-terrorism efforts by imposing tougher penalties on individuals who conduct and support terrorist operations locally and internationally ("Highlights of the U.S.A. Patriot Act," n.d.). The Act not only enhanced conspiracy penalties but also improved the inadequate maximum penalties for possible crimes by terrorists such as destruction of energy facilities and arson. This legislation has also eliminated some of the legal limitations for specific terrorism crimes and extends them to other terrorism activities.
Modernized the Law to Reflect New Threats and Technologies:
This legislation has improved counter-terrorism measures by updating the law to reflect the current technology and deal with new threats. For instance, the Act allows computer hacking victims to ask for help from law enforcement to monitor hackers on their computers. Consequently, the law enforcement personnel can acquire a search warrant at any venue of a terrorist-related activity. This is contrary to previous legislation where law enforcement officials were required to obtain the warrant in the district to carry out a search.
Given that the Patriot Act authorizes surveillance and search and seizure, an analysis of the ethical and homeland security implications is essential in determining the justification of its application in the justice system. While the enactment has attracted support because of its ability to improve the country's security, it has also attracted much criticism and opposition because of the ethical and homeland security implications.
Ethical Implications of the Patriot Act:
The ethical implications regarding the enactment of the Patriot Act emanate from the controversies surrounding several provisions. Some of these major ethical implications include:
Suspension of Important Procedural Steps:
The hastiness in the enactment of the Patriot Act raised an ethical concern since several significant procedural steps were suspended for the bill. Some of the suspended procedures, which are applicable to any other proposed law, include the normal committee and hearing process as well as inter-agency review (Jorgensen et. al, 2003). Due to this suspension of procedures during enactment, critics argue that the bill was hurriedly and recklessly passed into law. The hastiness in the process also resulted in the lack of adequate time for Congress to study and debate the provisions of the bill.
Ethical Concerns for Software Developers and Businesses:
Based on some of its provision, the Patriot Act causes a potential threat of the acquisition of private information by an outside party like the American government. Consequently, these engineers are faced with ethical dilemmas since it violates a portion of the Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice. Information obtained by companies like Google when an individual uses Gmail can lawfully be scrutinized by the U.S. government without a warrant. This raises ethical concerns for software developers since if the government can obtain private information under loose controls then the company should inform the individuals of the likely violation of privacy.
Since businesses are also forced to share personal information regarding the identities and transactions of customers with the government through the Patriot Act, business managers and executives also experience ethical dilemmas. Businesses experience such ethical concerns because the requirement discourages possible e-commerce clients, raises conflicts with foreign privacy legislations, and affect relationships with customers.
Likelihood of Unnecessary Searches and Surveillance:
Since the Patriot Act provides law enforcement personnel with the authority to conduct a search or surveillance on an individual without a warrant, there is a likelihood of the emergence of unnecessary searches and surveillance by these officials. This has raised many ethical concerns among the American public since the law enforcement officials are at liberty to conduct searches and surveillance under loose controls. Additionally, the ethical concerns of unnecessary searches and seizure also emerge from its elimination of the requirement for law enforcement personnel to prove what they seek to search, seize or survey ("MCLU Urges House," 2011). The eliminated requirement has been a fundamental principle of traditional search and seizure.
Violation of Civil Liberties:
The Patriot Act is considered as a measure by the government to violate the civil liberties of people by the American Civil Liberties Union. This raises a major ethical concern since the legislation is based on the revolution for protecting people and enhancing national security. While national security and the protection of people by the government is essential, it should not be at the expense of people's freedom, privacy, and limited governmental control as envisioned in the legislation.
Homeland Security Implications:
Apart from the ethical implications emanating from the enactment of the Patriot Act, the legislation also raises some homeland security implications including:
Potential Abuse of Power:
The Patriot Act represents one of the most viable threats to privacy, civil liberties, and democratic traditions in America's history since it expands the surveillance and investigative powers of the law enforcement. Some of the provisions in this Act contradict the conventional notions of search and seizure that necessitated the government to provide reasonable suspicion prior to conducting an investigation that infringes an individual's privacy. Such provision not only violates an individual's constitutional right but it also exposes them to potential abuse of power by law enforcement. The provision also contributes to the creation of an environment for breach of privacy and freedom of speech.
With loose governmental control especially on surveillance as well as search and seizure, the essence of safeguarding human rights…