The goal of the Patriot Act was rather simple: to give Federal and law enforcement officials a greater level of 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.
To create these additional safeguards, certain privacy considerations from US citizens were reduced or compromised. That has included 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.
List of the Pros of the Patriot Act
1. It strengthened US measures to detect, prevent, and prosecute the financing of terrorism.
One of the key goals of the Patriot Act allowed law enforcement and government officials to use their crime fighting 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.
The Patriot Act enabled the US government and law enforcement to 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.
One of the primary points of emphasis within the Patriot Act was to eliminate legal loopholes that could potentially fund international terrorism while US banks profited from the encounter at home.
4. It expanded surveillance authority regarding what the government could perform.
The Patriot Act updated communication laws and applied existing laws so that terrorism and terrorists could be included by definition.
5. Improved communication and better resources provide more speed.
The Patriot Act reduced the delays that forced officials to work at a specific pace.
List of the Cons of the Patriot Act
1. It reduced the checks and balances on government oversight.
Some of the legal restraints that were deemed to be counterproductive had been put in place to protect the rights of American citizens. In a moment of panic, Congress essentially gave law enforcement officials permission to collect intelligence on legal citizens of the United States. At the same time, judicial oversight was reduced, allowing law enforcement to take action without needing to get permission from the courts to do so in some instances.
2. It reduced public accountability.
One of the easiest ways 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 of the 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 US public found out that the NSA was collecting phone data in bulk. Although the act of collecting this information was eventually deemed to be illegal, that didn’t change the fact that the information had been reviewed on people who were never under a criminal investigation.
5. It allowed for unlawful imprisonment.
The United States government acknowledged that they held 99 legal citizens after their capture in Afghanistan, not giving them the right to due process that is constitutionally provided. If you were suspected of being an enemy combatant, even without proof, there was a chance you could be indefinitely detained.
6. It polarized communities.
People live in fear today, which represents itself as hostility and cruelty, and that has created more separation than arguably ever before.
Source: 11 Pros and Cons of the Patriot Act