The "USA Patriot Act" titled "Uniting and Strengthening America
by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept
and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act of 2001" is a sweeping Bill signed by President Bush on October 24, 2001, to "deter and punish terrorist acts in the United
States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes."
HOW DID THIS
A national crisis, such as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, immediately encourages a 'do something' reaction in politicians of every stripe. The greater the crisis, the swifter -- and more unthinking -- the solution politicians concoct.
At such times, a herd mentality takes hold that overcomes logic and reason. Having served eight years in the U.S. House of Representatives, I can attest first hand to this
dangerous political phenomenon. Just six weeks after the September 11th
attacks, on October 26, 2001, a panicked U.S. Congress adopted the so-called 'USA PATRIOT Act.'
The PATRIOT Act became law with great haste
and secrecy. In the name of the 'war on terrorism,' Congress passed this questionable legislation
giving the U.S. executive
branch and its police agencies sweeping new powers that undermine the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The Act (all 362 pages of it) was passed with
little debate by senators
and congressmen, most
of whom did not, and could not even read the bill, because
when the final vote was taken, no printed copies were available.
In my opinion, the Act constitutes the greatest single
governmental assault on personal and financial privacy
in U.S. history. Already three
U.S. district courts have
ruled parts of the Act to be unconstitutional.
The Act is being used
for purposes that have
nothing to do with fighting
terrorism undefined but everything
to do with
unchecked police surveillance, wiretapping
searches of homes and offices. Fully 125 pages of this
Act concern individual financial activities as well as U.S. and offshore banking and finance.
WHAT IS THE THREAT?
The PATRIOT Act permits:
FBI and police searches of your
home and office
government wiretaps on your
phone, computer and/or Internet activity
investigations of your
bank records, credit cards
and other financial records
investigations of your
library and book activities
examination of your
and business records.
* the freezing of funds and assets
without prior notice or appeal
* the creation of secret
'watch lists' that ban those named from air and other travel