The Patriot Act Violates Civil Liberties
Table of Contents:
Jim Cornehls, "The USA
: The Assault on Civil Liberties,"
, vol. 16, July 2003. Copyright © 2003 by Jim Cornehls.
Reproduced by permission.
threatens civil liberties in numerous ways, argues Jim Cornehls in the following viewpoint. Passed in the wake of the terrorist
attacks of September 11,
, the complex, 342-page
defines terrorism so broadly that it encompasses constitutionally protected acts of
civil disobedience, claims Cornehls. With little or no oversight, he contends, the
grants broad police powers that sidestep constitutional
controls on the surveillance, arrest, and prosecution of American citizens. Cornehls is a professor and director of the Law and Public Policy
Graduate Certificate Program in the School of Urban and Public Affairs, University of Texas at Arlington.
As you read, consider the following questions:
According to Cornehls, the
's broad definition of terrorism might encompass the activities of what organizations?
What must the government assert in order for the courts to issue warrants and orders under the
, in the author's view?
In the author's opinion, what is different about the
's restrictions and earlier restrictions on civil rights?
, marked a momentous and tragic event in U.S. history. It also evoked a flood of patriotic fervor and an instant fear that
Americans now were vulnerable to international terrorism. Capitalizing on these fears, the executive and legislative branches of the U.S.
government quickly enacted measures purported to counteract terrorism or terrorist threats. One of the principal results of this activity was an
titled "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism
, passed and signed into law by President [George W.] Bush on October 26,
. The USA
is one of
the most sweeping acts in modern American history because of its potential impact on the civil liberties of U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens
residing in the United States.
A Complex Law
It is hard to believe the
could have been drafted, debated, and passed in only 45 days. It is over 342 pages long and extremely complicated.
Given its complexity, and the fact the legislation represented a wish list of new investigative and detention powers long sought by law
enforcement officials, it is more likely the pro-law enforcement Administration had been drafting such provisions for many months. Post-
September 11 provided the perfect opportunity to introduce them, with very little Congressional or public opposition. The Senate voted for the
98 to 1 and the House 356 to 66. The vast majority of Americans never even heard of it at the time.