Monday, September 12, 2011

The Patriot Act Revealed

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The September 11th, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. Irrevocably changed the course of American history. Similar to the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii sixty years earlier, this catastrophe horrified the American Public, and a nation felt besieged by the possibility of further attacks.
President Bush's rating soared to 90%, and his administration worked closely with Congress to pass a flurry of wide-reaching laws.

Conspiracy theories spread immediately. The spotty reporting of the 9/11 Commission did little to discourage them.
10 years later, sceptics and conspiracy theorists still debate particulars of the incident. By now, most people are familiar with the popular 9/11 conspiracy theories: The idea that somehow 9/11 was an INSIDE JOB. Or, that the American government covered up evidence of mistakes. But, there is another concern here; What laws were passed, exactly? And, how do they affect us, and Americans today?

Since it was signed into law in October 2001, The Patriot Act has become a subject of increasing controversy. According to scholars such as Elliot Mincburg, Director For People Of The American Way, The Justice Department has used terrorism as a guise to expand law enforcement powers in areas that are totally unrelated to terrorism.
It's true that The Patriot Act has been used to investigate non-terrorist crimes. In fact, the intelligence community was waiting for an opportunity to pass this sort of legislation. Far from being custom made legislation designed as a reaction to 9/11. The Patriot Act is instead an amalgamation of various powers the Intelligence Community has wanted for years. Yet is seems these expanded powers still fall short of some some agencies desires.
In 2005, Dan Eggen of The Washington Post, published a story exposing several FBI violations of 'Secret Surveillance' Laws. Including improperly seizing e-mail and banking records. And, conducting non-consenting physical searches.
These findings have cause researchers like David Sobel, The General consel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, to speculate that this is simply the 'tip of the iceberg'.

What other abuses are out there? Finding the information can be tricky. For example: Title 5 of The Patriot Act , strengthens the power of National Security Letters, (NSL's). An NSL is a formal request for information regarding a person under surveillance.
These existed prior to The Patriot Act, but under the new law, they were applicable to American citizens, and contained gag-orders that prevented the recipient from informing anyone of the Letter. Subsequent legislation has softened these powers, but they still exist.

By 2004, nearly 300 American Municipalities had passed laws or formally disagreed with The Act. Urging congress to modify or repeal this legislation.

In the post-9/11 world, the average American, (and subsequently world) citizen has lost numerous legal protections. Supporters of the Law argue that this sacrifice has been both necessary and beneficial. Some claim that as many as fifteen, (15) terrorist attacks have been prevented thanks solely to The Patriot Act. However, to Privacy Advocates, and other opponents to The Act, it has been used more to invade the private lives of citizens than to prevent terrorism. And currently, no one knows exactly how much or how little privacy left to the average citizen.

Requests for more fact under the Freedom Of Information Act, (FOIA), are no safe bet. The FOIA has several exemptions including National Defence.

Not only is there something THEY don't want you to know, but legally they don't HAVE TO TELL YOU!

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