Does the USA PATRIOT Act diminish civil liberties?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Congressional Report Services (CRS) of the Library of Congress, in its Apr. 18, 2002 report "The USA PATRIOT Act: A Sketch," written and prepared by Charles Doyle, Senior Specialist American Law Division, stated:
"The Act gives federal officials greater authority to track and intercept communications, both for law enforcement and foreign intelligence gathering purposes. It vests the Secretary of the Treasury with regulatory powers to combat corruption of U.S. financial institutions for foreign money laundering purposes. It seeks to further close our borders to foreign terrorists and to detain and remove those within our borders. It creates new crimes, new penalties, and new procedural efficiencies for use against domestic and international terrorists."
Does the USA PATRIOT Act diminish civil liberties?
The American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU), Director of ACLU's Washington Office, Laura Murphy and Associate Director and Chief Legislative Counsel, Gregory T. Nojeim, wrote in their Oct. 23, 2001 "Letter to the Senate Urging Rejection on the Final Version of the USA PATRIOT Act":
"While it contains provisions that we support, the American Civil Liberties Union believes that the USA PATRIOT Act gives the Attorney General and federal law enforcement unnecessary and permanent new powers to violate civil liberties that go far beyond the stated goal of fighting international terrorism. These new and unchecked powers could be used against American citizens who are not under criminal investigation, immigrants who are here within our borders legally, and also against those whose First Amendment activities are deemed to be threats to national security by the Attorney General."
American Conservative Union (ACU) Chairman David A. Keene, in an open-to-the-press panel discussion at the National Press Club on Apr. 10, 2003, stated:
"The USA PATRIOT Act was passed in haste included [sic] ideas previously shelved by the Congress, like expanded civil forfeiture and roving wiretaps: ideas that law enforcement wanted, but could never get.
When creating sound anti-terrorism legislation, the line should not be drawn at 'what is helpful for law enforcement,' but at what is needed to protect us while preserving the proper balance between preserving civil liberties and our nation's national security needs."
Bob Barr, JD, former US Congressman (R-GA), in his Dec. 6, 2005 speech "Problems With the USA Patriot Act," stated:
"Many of the [USA PATRIOT Act's] provisions are non-controversial and have had a positive impact on the government’s ability to fight acts of terrorism. However, there are a number of provisions that raise serious questions of constitutionality...
If we were to take the position, reflected in provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act, that the government can invade our privacy and gather evidence that can be used against us based on no suspicion whatsoever that we’ve done anything wrong, but simply because the government wants to gather evidence as part of some generalized, 'anti-terrorism' or 'foreign intelligence' investigation, then we will have rendered that Fourth Amendment principle essentially meaningless."
John Whitehead, JD, Founder and President of The Rutherford Institute, in a June 13, 2005 paper "How Liberty Dies: The Patriot Reauthorization Act" for the Rutherford Institute, wrote:
"At a massive 342 pages, the Patriot Act violates at least six of the ten original amendments known as the Bill of Rights — the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments—and possibly the Thirteenth and Fourteenth as well...
While it remains questionable whether the Patriot Act has really succeeded in protecting Americans against future acts of terrorism, the highly controversial additions to the Act will unquestionably succeed in gutting the Fourth Amendment. Of all the protections found in the Constitution, the Fourth Amendment stands as the final barrier between the privacy rights of Americans and the potential for government abuse of power. But if law enforcement officials can search your home and your records without having to go through a judge, then the concept of a man’s home being his castle will become as antiquated as the Model T."
Alberto Gonzales, JD, then US Attorney General, wrote in his Dec. 14, 2005 editorial "Reauthorize the Patriot Act" in the Washington Post:
"After a lengthy and extensive public debate, Congress has produced a comprehensive reauthorization bill to permanently reauthorize 14 of the [USA PATRIOT Act's] 16 expiring provisions. During this important debate, Republicans and Democrats have discovered that concerns raised about the act's impact on civil liberties, while sincere, were unfounded. There have been no verified civil liberties abuses in the four years of the act's existence."
Tom Ridge, JD, former Homeland Security Secretary, in his July 15, 2004 speech "Prepared Remarks at the Allegheny County Emergency Operations Center" said:
"So let me state it plainly: The tools of the Patriot Act are vital to our ability to prevent terrorist attacks. It is not a zero sum game. Like the Department of Homeland Security and so many federal agencies, the authorities of the Patriot Act exist to protect the very liberties that our Founders established in the Constitution. By protecting our freedoms, our civil liberties are enhanced, not diminished."
James Jay Carafano, PhD, Senior Research Fellow, and Paul Rosenzweig, JD, former Senior Legal Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, wrote in the 2005 Winning the Long War: Lessons from the Cold War for Defeating Terrorism and Preserving Freedom:
"To date, as the Department of Justice Inspector General has reported, there has not been one single instance of abuse of the powers granted in the [U.S. PATRIOT Act].
Safeguarding the civil liberties of American citizens is vitally important, as important during war as during periods of peace. Yet so, too, is preserving our security. The Patriot Act preserves both. Hysterical criticisms that the act was unnecessary and is a threat to a healthy civil society have proven unfounded, and calls for repeal or significant revision are misguided."