11 Pros and Cons of the Patriot Act

The goal of the Patriot Act was to give Federal and law enforcement officials more authority when tracking, intercepting, or gathering communications and intelligence of suspected terrorists. It also allowed for greater communication in foreign intelligence gathering and provided the Secretary of the Treasury greater regulatory powers regarding foreign money and terrorism.

Certain privacy considerations for US citizens were reduced, including the use of “secret” courts where warrants can be issued to obtain metadata from phone calls and internet activities of private citizens. Warrantless collection methods were also used in some instances.

Pros of the Patriot Act

  1. It strengthened US measures to detect, prevent, and prosecute the financing of terrorism. Law enforcement and government officials could now use their crime fighting tools for the war on terrorism. Because terrorists require financing to accomplish their goals, a primary focus was domestic and international banking systems.
  2. It added scrutiny to foreign jurisdictions and financial institutions. US government and law enforcement could now investigate financial transactions that took place in foreign jurisdictions. This increased the chances of catching a suspected terrorist before an attack occurred.
  3. It instituted measures within the US financial system to stop corruption. Legal loopholes that could potentially fund international terrorism while US banks profited from the encounter at home were eliminated.
  4. It expanded the government’s surveillance authority. Terrorism and terrorists could be included in communication laws.
  5. Improved communication and better resources provide more speed. Forced delays on the working pace of officials could be reduced.

Cons of the Patriot Act

  1. It reduced the checks and balances on government oversight. Legal restraints were put in place to protect the rights of American citizens. In a moment of panic, Congress gave law enforcement officials permission to collect intelligence on legal citizens of the US. At the same time, judicial oversight was reduced, allowing law enforcement to act without always needing to get permission from the courts.
  2. It reduced public accountability. One way to keep law enforcement accountable for their actions is through public oversight.
  3. It reduced the ability of the public to challenge a government search in court. Many secret search warrants that are issued by the courts through the legislation of the Patriot Act come with a gag order. In 2017, officials used Facebook information to infiltrate protest planning meetings.
  4. It allowed government officials to target citizens not under criminal investigation. In 2015, the public discovered that the NSA was collecting phone data in bulk. Although this act was eventually deemed illegal, the information had been reviewed on people who were never under a criminal investigation.
  5. It allowed for unlawful imprisonment. The government acknowledged that they held 99 legal citizens after their capture in Afghanistan, not giving them the constitutional right to due process. Anyone suspected of being an enemy combatant could be detained indefinitely.
  6. It polarized communities. People live in fear, which represents as hostility and cruelty.

Source: 11 Pros and Cons of the Patriot Act
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