Target: United States Congress
Goal: Large-scale reform of the Patriot Act to ensure government can no longer abuse its authority.
Passed with little to no debate in the fear-stricken wake of 9/11, the Patriot Act gives law enforcement agencies unprecedented power in detaining or acquiring personal information from citizens and noncitizens alike. The act is one of many surveillance laws that allows for the government to monitor phone calls, track internet activity, and amass bank records from millions of innocent Americans. Ostensibly, the Patriot Act is designed to better help the authorities thwart terrorist plots but in reality it only functions to infringe and spy on our personal lives.
The Patriot Act allows for the FBI to issue National Security Letters, which are essentially warrants that do not require a judge’s approval and allow for the agency to acquire vast amounts of personal information from anyone deemed vaguely suspicious, permitting the FBI to obtain phone, computer, and banking records from the so-called suspects.
Other aspects of the Patriot Act that are in drastic need of reform can be found in Sections 206 and 215. Section 206 permits the government to perform wiretaps on persons and facilities without giving specific information on what they intend to find and seize. Similarly, Section 215 allows the government to acquire ‘any tangible thing’ relating to terrorism, leaving the relevance of these things to terrorism completely ambiguous.
Rather than protecting US citizens from potential terrorist threats, the Patriot Act only mires the American populace in an Orwellian state of surveillance. In order to combat this, demand reform of the Patriot Act that makes its wording more explicit, and its surveillance policies in line with traditional ideas of search and seizure, which require proof of reasonable suspicion and declaration of what is intended to be found.
Dear Members of the United States Congress
The USA PATRIOT Act that was passed shortly after 9/11 gives law enforcement agencies virtually unchecked power in detaining or acquiring personal information from innocent American citizens. Through its unprecedented surveillance measures, the act allows for government agencies to monitor phone calls, track internet activity, and collect bank records from millions of innocent Americans. Essentially, the Patriot Act transforms innocent citizens to terrorist suspects with little to no justification.
Specific aspects of the act that are harmful to our personal freedoms can be found in Sections 206 and 215, and also in the FBI issuance of National Security Letters. Section 206, which allows for wiretaps to be performed on persons or facilities without identifying what is being investigated or why the tap is being carried out, is completely averse to traditional notions of search and seizure. Similarly, Section 215 permits the government to acquire ‘any tangible thing’ relating to terrorism, leaving the nature and relevance of said things to terrorism completely ambiguous. Lastly, the issuance of National Security Letters, which authorize the FBI to obtain phone, computer, and banking records without judge’s approval, are wholly unconstitutional and egregiously unregulated.
The Patriot Act helps create a totalitarian system of government that is invasive and utterly frightening. In order to reverse this trend, I urge you to drastically reform the Patriot Act, rewriting Sections 206 and 215 so that they are in line with traditional notions of search and seizure, and eliminating the issuance of unwarranted National Security Letters.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: abracapocus_pocuscadabra via Flickr.