Debate over Patriot Act continues 10 years later

Incarnate Word Academy/St. Louis, Mo.
Posted in Security

COLUMBIA — Changes in national security laws made in response to the 9/11 attacks have made many Americans question whether the government is breaching civil liberties to protect the U.S. from other attacks.

Some consider laws, such as the Patriot Act, which supporters say were created to stop terrorist activities, to be an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. Then-President George W. Bush signed the act into law on Oct. 26, 2001. Several provisions of the law were

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The law gave the government permission to monitor those perceived to be a threat to the country’s security, but some people view this act more as a nuisance than a necessity. Some civil rights organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union object.

“It’s none of the government’s business what book I check out of the library, what e-mails I send or what websites I visit,” said Dan Viets, a board member of the mid-Missouri chapter of the ACLU. Viets said he believes the Patriot Act dramatically diminishes a citizen’s right to privacy. He said changing the laws and policies is a decision for politicians and elected government leaders.

“Every time there’s a perceived crisis, many politicians’ first impulse

is to sacrifice our rights,” Viets said.

Another measure considered by some as highly controversial is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was introduced in 1978 and later amended by the Patriot Act. The law allows the government to expand its method of electronic surveillance.

Donald Briggs, post commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Columbia, said the provisions in the law give everyone a “formal identity,” which is necessary to determine where the danger is.

“All I have to do is get your Social Security number, and I know everything about you,” Briggs said. “It gives the government the opportunity to respond if there’s something wrong.”

National Public Radio reported that the Patriot Act would allow the government to use wiretapping to detect terrorists who use high-tech methods to plan an attack. Also, the report said, obtaining secret search warrants would allow police to investigate the homes of criminals without giving them advance warning.

However, John Chasnoff of the ACLU’s St. Louis chapter said the Patriot Act “goes too far.” He specifically disagrees with the government’s use of wiretapping and obtaining secret search warrants.

Chasnoff also said the ACLU is one of the leading organizations that is defending the rights of the Muslim community, which also is coping with the nation’s security procedures.

According to the American Muslim Perspective website, many Muslims have experienced abuse from officials through the Patriot Act, especially financially. The web site reports that people with Muslim-sounding names are treated with a high degree of suspicion.

Nevertheless, those in support of the act hold to their

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Briggs said, “When it (the Patriot Act) is being used to protect the public, it’s not an invasion of privacy. If I’m not doing anything wrong, why should I object?”