In the wake of September 11, many things happened very quickly. Along with the beginning of a ‘”‘war'”‘ against terrorism, an act was passed to help prevent future terrorism in the USA. The name of this is the USA Patriot Act. The act legalizes many surveillance techniques that were once prohibited. The act has been passed without debate, and the new privileges given to our government have not been thoroughly examined. The law enforcers of our country are now capable of monitoring the citizens in ways most people are not aware of.
Some of the surveillance laws are self-terminating after four years, but many of the more important laws are permanent. What will these new surveillance laws be used for after the war on terrorism is over? Lee Tien, the Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney, suggests that the new rights can be used to put America into a ‘”‘police state'”‘. There is a need for checks and balances in the USA Patriot Act to protect the American citizens. There are two hundred ninety pages in the USA Patriot Act; many of these pages are discussing subjects that change the rights of American citizens forever.
The act was passed in a little over a month, which suggest that few, if any, congressmen thoroughly read this detailed act. In times of crisis, history has proved that United States citizens willingly compromise their right of privacy without considering the consequences. Many people have openly accepted this act without knowing what it is, most people have never even heard of the USA Patriot Act. The USAPA (USA Patriot Act) has not gone under the scrutiny that any normal act would have, yet this could be more important than any other act to date.
The USAPA allows national or domestic law enforces (from the NSA, FBI, and CIA all the way down to the local police) to tap your computer or voice mail with a simple search warrant issued by a judge. Only one out of ten thousand of these search warrants requests are rejected. The law enforcers are also allowed to tap electronic devices without telling the victim about the warrant or that they are being monitored. Also, the CIA and other foreign agencies are allowed to share information with the domestic law enforcement.
This means that agencies that were once not allowed to intervene in the affairs of the USA can do so without punishment. These are few of the many laws that have been adopted by our country without the general consensus. Although these laws may be needed to properly protect our country, we need to be constantly informed as to how law enforcers are using their power, so they do not abuse their power or the people they are supposed to protect. America has a rival that we have declared war against, terrorism.
But after terrorism is suppressed, whom will our country battle next and when will the adversaries show themselves? During the idleness after terrorism is vanquished, government law enforcers are given a chance to misuse the new surveillance laws. This is because there will be little for the law keepers to do other than to turn their attention to the American citizens. These laws are not made to charge average people with misdemeanors; they are to be used for national security.
With monitoring techniques similar to those legalized in the USAPA being used on all of Americas citizens, there would be a greater sense of oppression among the people. To be oppressed and governed in such a way by police is marshal law. As a safeguard, the government added an expiration date on most of the surveillance regulations except one of the key laws. This law allows something called a pen register trap and trace device order to be modified. A pen register trap and trace device order is a court order that is used for information gathering.
It is very simple to get this court order, because it originally just recorded the phone numbers made by a selected person. The court does not require any results from the tap either. The USAPA has changed what the pen register trap and trace device order can do though. Now the tap can record the URLs of any site the victim of the tap goes to on the Internet. This is a more detailed tap than the original pen register trap and trace device order was, because now anything done on the Internet can be recorded and used against someone in court.
To make this search warrant so available and easy to have, that any law official read anywhere anyone goes online without proper reason as to their purpose and the results is irrational. Therefore, there is a call for checks and balances in the USA Patriot Act in order to protect the citizens of America. To avoid misuse of the law enforcement powers, the following check and balances need to be made. First, congress should require detailed reports from every official that requests the surveillance on a given person. The reports should include why the information is needed.
This can help prevent meaningless ‘”‘taps'”‘ on citizens who have not been shown to do any wrong. Secondly, the type of information obtained should be recorded by whoever has appealed for the search warrant. If the information acquired is recorded adequately, then the information could be considered legitimate in court. And the records would prevent future searches on this person for similar circumstances. In addition, the information cannot be changed to something incorrect if the information is properly documented. Thirdly, there should be a report on if the information acquired is used in court.
This is a check on the usefulness of the information gathered by the law enforcers, and a way to monitor the proper use of the search warrant. Fourthly, a check on how the information attained is to be shared with other law based government agencies. It is a way to protect the privacy of the victim, so people do not needlessly read private documents. Finally, the public should be aware of the success or failure of the system. The people should be informed if their loss of privacy has done what it is intended to, which is to protect the country.
These checks and balances of the USA Patriot Act are needed if the men and women of the USA want to feel safe. Thus, the USAPA must have many checks as well as balances if the people of the United States are to be happy with it. Until then, people remain concerned that Congress has passed such extensive declines in the right of Americans to be liberated from dominating government observation. But having done so, it is essential that Congress where feasible, shares with the American nation basic information about how these wide new powers are being used.