Essay Example on The passage of the Patriot Act









The passage of the Patriot Act ushered in a new phase of the debate of what is more important liberty or security It is well known that Benjamin Franklin once wrote Those who would trade liberty for temporary security deserve neither The quick growth of technology across the world has led to new security concerns as the potential threats to global and national security have risen during the past four decades and exponentially since the 9 11 attacks and the government has responded by increasing security measures that many believe to be too extreme in counteracting terror The Transportation Security Administration for example has never caught a terrorist despite being a massive inconvenience to travelers The NSA widely believed to be spying on American citizens was created to collect data on millions of Americans and better organize the government response to threats of terrorism With technological changes the discussion of liberty and security will continue to change and new issues will be brought to the forefront of the public mind This paper will analyze the major ways in which the discussion is changing and how the creation of the Department of Homeland Security will continue to shape it The National Security Agency was created in 1952 however it was the passage of the Patriot Act that allowed the NSA to dramatically increase its spying capability 

The NSA was authorized to store the phone records of suspected terrorists along with email and other information President Bush authorized the NSA to also collect the meta records of millions of American citizens as well thus without wiretapping warrants no record is kept based on what was said but the government agency can review who was contacted and how long the phone call lasted Since the NSA can collect all of the data except for the audio many have raised concerns that this violates the liberties of Americans by assuming that we are all suspects Diamond Some believe that this is private information that the government has no authority or business collecting despite several court rulings supporting the clause that this data is not inherently private Perhaps the most important aspect of this is the assumption that Americans are now automatically suspects in the digital age The Libertarian Party would argue that collection of data implies that individuals are persons of interest and that everyone is therefore a suspect The Patriot Act stipulates that the government must receive a warrant issued by a secret FISA court to collect this information Breslow however President Bush argued that the collection of meta data would only be useful if it could be done to millions of Americans and these courts allowed for some degree of autonomy as a result This would further the argument that Americans are closely monitored and therefore assume to be suspected After all the question of implied guilt is important in a legal context as a skilled lawyer would argue that the government pursues policies that individuals are suspects through the collection of evidence and as this meta data can be used as evidence this is a very important aspect of the bigger picture So how does this affect the idea of liberty in American society

 To begin with American society was founded on the idea that people are innocent until proven guilty The overall acceptance of NSA programs reveals that Americans are becoming increasingly more comfortable with trading liberty for security The counterargument to this has always been that if one has done nothing wrong they have nothing to fear However that defies the very idea of liberty The traditional Webster definition of liberty is the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one s way of life behavior or political views The government has shown its ineptitude in matters of the law and indeed governments around the world for centuries have imprisoned those that think differently or disagree politically In a secret courtroom where one is not judged by one s peers but by judges whom the public will never see liberty is absent from the process The Founding Fathers envisioned a governing system where the government fears the people and not the people fearing the government This is part of the reason why the Second Amendment was added and why the freedom of the press was included in the First Amendment 

Thus the American idea of liberty itself is changing More and more people are becoming inclined to trusting the government instead of enjoying their liberties This conversation is becoming increasingly important especially as law enforcement becomes more and more adept at using technology to monitor movement and information Williams History has shown that these steps proceed the rule of tyranny the popular allusions are to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin and while these may be overdone the references are applicable Liberty in America is unlikely to be challenged in a sweeping political revolution but instead handed over gradually piece by piece This is the fear that many have when protesting against the NSA and they cite the changing views on liberty and security as the biggest threat to traditional American values As technology increases and the public s fear increases the push towards increased surveillance is likely to continue What would have been considered unthinkable one hundred years ago is now the norm and as American society has changed throughout the decades so too has the concentration of power into the hands of the executive branch and the increased removal of these more abstract parts of liberty

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