The government has been issuing national security letters and using them as law enforcement tools since the 1970s. This was dramatically expanded after the enactment of the USA Patriot ACT as a law weeks after that fateful attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Then President George W. Bush signed the Act into law on October 26, 2001. However, with the recent reports about Reddit users and advocates for digital privacy not in favor of handing over customer data to FBI investigators, the USA Patriot Act which is the acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 is again controversial. Here are the benefits and setbacks of the Act according to supporters and critics.
List of Pros of the USA Patriot Act
1. Support for Victims of Terrorism.
One of the advantages attributed to the Act by supporters is the assurance that the children of the people who perished in the 9/11 attacks will be taken care of by granting special immigrant status to grandparents. This is possible if one or both of the parents were American citizens or have permanent lawful status before the terrorist attacks on that day.
2. Strengthens National Security.
Supporters of the USA Patriot Act claim that after its enactment, hundreds of people involved with terrorism-related crimes were convicted and the probability of threats was reduced due to the streamlining of the surveillance process and the strict provisions of the Act. Consequently, potential terrorist attacks will be intercepted.
3. Protects the First Amendment.
Proponents of the Act emphasize that contrary to its detractors that the Patriot Act violates the First Amendment which is freedom of speech, it in facts protects it. This is because with the FBI given the authority to request for records to be released, a potential bomber, for example, who has access to books from public libraries in connection to the making of explosives can be traced from the records in the library.
List of Cons of the USA Patriot Act
1. Invasion of Privacy.
Anti-USA Patriot Act groups argue that this law made it possible for the government to access pertinent personal information of ordinary citizens it might consider persons of interest. A clear indication of this is the imminent abuse this legislation can bring forth on people such as other citizens who work as outsourcing employees working for U.S. companies even if they are located elsewhere.
2. Concerns from Social Media Users.
With the deletion of a paragraph known as “warrant canary” in the transparency report of Reddit, which stated that it has not been a subject to national security letters requesting for personal data about its users without a court order, social media users have expressed concerns that with the portion deleted, the FBI can now access pertinent data about them.
Despite the aim to prevent terrorism, the USA Patriot Act has received criticisms in the middle of the changes in has undergone over the years and under different administrations. With its upcoming renewal in the years to come, it is best for the government to analyze how it had improved the lives of the American people and how well it has succeeded in fighting terrorism.