USA Patriot Act signed into law.
-- TNJP summary
On Friday, October 26, 2001, President
George W. Bush signed into law the "Uniting and Strengthening
America Act by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and
Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001," also known as the USA Patriot
Act. Many members of Congress along with the ACLU and American citizens
have expressed concern that this act will lead to infringements upon
civil liberties and personal freedoms protected by the Fourth Amendment
to the Constitution.
The Fourth Amendment protects "the
right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not
be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,
supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the
place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
While enhanced security and a more conscious effort by the Nation's
law enforcement agencies are obviously required after the attacks
on September 11, 2001, the Patriot Act goes far beyond what is necessary
to protect Americans from further terrorist attacks.
Federal officials will henceforth possess
the power to obtain wiretapping orders on any phone that a person
suspected of being a terrorist may use. Federal officials will be
able to obtain nationwide search warrants for monitoring e-mail, conducting
physical searches, and obtaining information from computers, billing
records, and voice mail records. The act sets an expiration date of
Dec. 31, 2005, for the new wiretapping and surveillance powers.
The USA Patriotic Act allows the government
to detain foreigners suspected of terrorism and to begin deportation
proceedings, during which the foreigner must stay in federal custody
for a maximum of seven days, unless charged with a crime. The new
law does not define terrorist or terrorism, but assumes the definition
stated in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d) statute
contains the following definitions:
- The term "terrorism" means
premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against
noncombatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents,
usually intended to influence an audience.
- The term "international terrorism"
means terrorism involving citizens or the territory of more than
The term "terrorist group"
means any group practicing, or that has significant subgroups that
practice, international terrorism. The US Government has employed
this definition of terrorism for statistical and analytical purposes
As American citizens, we should be aware
of this new law and its affect upon your civil liberties. A person suspected
of a terrorist act - or even behaving in what may be viewed as a "suspicious"
manner can fall victim to these new surveillance powers. "These
new and unchecked powers," said Gregory T. Nojeim, Associate Director
of the ACLU's Washington Office, "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
An analysis of the USA Patriot Act's provisions related to expanded
surveillance of online activities may be found at the Electronic
Frontier Foundation website.
Please contact your congressional representatives and urge them
to monitor federal and state agencies in their pursuit of terrorist
and terrorist organizations, ensuring that American citizens and residents
are not harassed and victimized by the new law. If we are not aware
and vigilant, our rights as American citizens may be subverted in the
name of security.
Contract your Congressional Representatives:
2252 Killearn Center Boulevard, Suite 300
Tallahassee, Florida 32309
U.S. Courthouse Annex
111 N. Adams Street
Tallahassee, FL 32301
(850) 942-8450 (Fax)
301 South Monroe Street, #108
Tallahassee, FL 32301
Fax: (850) 681-2902
Deeply Disappointed With Passage of Anti-Terrorism Bill; Decries Deeply
Flawed Legislative Process"
Source: The American Civil Liberties Union, Wednesday, October
Contact: Larry Helm
Spalding, ACLU Legislative Staff Counsel, Tallahassee, Florida.
-- The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded the 66 members
of the House of Representatives who voted against the final version
of anti-terrorism legislation, saying that they acted bravely to preserve
civil liberties in America in the face of enormous pressure from the
Bush Administration. "This legislation is based on the faulty
assumption that safety must come at the expense of civil liberties,"
said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office.
"We can be safe and fight terrorism without substantially surrendering
our civil liberties."
a letter to the full House, which adopted the legislation by a vote
357 to 66, Murphy said the USA Patriot Act (HR 3162) would give enormous,
unwarranted power to the executive branch unchecked by meaningful
judicial review. Most of the new powers, the ACLU said, could be used
against American citizens in routine criminal investigations completely
unrelated to 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," said Gregory T. Nojeim,
Associate Director of the ACLU's Washington National Office.
House offices closed and staff unable to access their papers, Murphy
said that the process that brought the final version of the bill to
the floor is deeply flawed and an offense to the thoughtful legislative
process necessary to protect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
"In past times of tragedy and fear, our government has harassed,
investigated and arrested people solely because of their race, religion,
origin, speech or political beliefs," the ACLU said. "We
must not allow that to happen again even as we work together to protect
ourselves from future terrorist attacks."
Bill passes House and Senate. Congress has
passed the US Patriot Act (Senate Bill 1510 and House Bill 3162) extending
the policing powers of the FBI, Department of State, and the INS,
among other provisions. Unless reinstated by Congress in 2005, some
of the bill's provisions (e.g., extended surveillance authority) will
expire. The US Patriot act also allows the federal government to seize
assets of groups supporting international causes that the U.S. Secretary
of State deems to be terrorist in nature. Participants and supporters
of may be charged with terrorist offenses. The government need not
disclose evidence if it decides that such evidence would compromise
You can find more information the act at the Thomas
website by searching for Senate bill 1510 and House Bill 3162.
Recommended action: Make your opinion known about this far-reaching
legislation by immediately contacting your elected officials. Addresses
and telephone numbers for U.S. Senators Graham and Nelson from Florida,
and U.S. Representative Boyd from Florida are below.