The Patriot Act was introduced as a way of fighting the war on terrorism and making America a safer place in which to live. Title IV of the Act concerns reducing the risk of terrorism by tightening up border control and immigration laws. Some people argue that these laws are an infringement of the rights of US citizens, that the Act was passed rashly, and that it should be revoked. However, although the Act was introduced rapidly, it was in response to the serious terrorist attacks of 9/11. America needs to be as certain as possible that nothing like 9/11 will ever be allowed to happen again, and the Patriot Act Title IV is a necessary part of this. If the American public wants to fight the war on terrorism, it is vital that they place their trust in the Act and cooperate with it unequivocally.
“USA PATRIOT is an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism” (Fritscher, 2007).
The US Patriot Act was agreed in 2001, shortly after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. There are ten titles within the Act, and each of these contains various parts, each addressing different factors which pose terrorist risks to the country. Title IV concerns the matter of border control, and also aims to reduce the risk of terrorism in the US by tightening up on immigration laws (Title).
The Patriot Act was passed only forty-three days after the atrocities of 9/11. There was very little debate or discussion prior to the passing of the law. However, the American public were frightened and felt in danger; the Patriot Act provided some reassurance that the nation would fight the war on terrorism and would strive to keep its citizens safe from further harm. Despite these good intentions, as the years have passed, questions have been raised about the Act, with allegations that it allows the government to interfere with people’s lives with insufficient reason (Fritscher, 2007).
Elements of Title IV also address immigration laws and looks to improve them. The Secretary of State, for example, has since been given the power to label “domestic terrorist organizations: A domestic terrorist organization is defined as any organization that has ever used a weapon or dangerous device to cause substantial damage to property” (Title).
Any members of the domestic terrorist group who are not US citizens are prohibited from entering the country. Furthermore, foreigners are barred from coming into the U.S. if they are from a group which promotes terrorist acts (Title).
There are some elements of the law which are more controversial. Section 416 of Title IV concerns the monitoring of foreign students coming into the US for study. Schools are now required, by law, to make available data about their foreign students, so that it can be examined.
Section 412 is a further contentious part of the act. For foreigners who are believed to be terrorists, up to seven days imprisonment can be issued. At the end of the seven days they must either be charged or removed. Furthermore, if an immigrant has been accused of violating the laws, they can be detained for as long as six months, providing the release of the suspect would be a threat to national security.
In 2004, Tom Ridge said out that America shares thousends of miles worth of border with both Canada and Mexico, and millions of people can pass across it by car or by train, yearly. He also pointed out that patrols have to be set up around all of these borders, and the authorities have to do their job, with no mistakes, countless times every day. Conversely, he states, a terrorist only has to get their job right once. (Title).
There has been much discussion concerning whether the Act should be sustained or revoked. With regards to the Act, George W. Bush said: “When it came time to renew the act, for partisan reasons, in my mind, people have not stepped up and have agreed that it’s still necessary to protect the country,” Bush said. “The enemy has not gone away – they’re still there. And I expect Congress to understand that we’re still at war and they’ve got to give us the tools necessary to win this war” (Mathewson, 2009).
As the former American President points out, the Patriot Act is needed if our citizens are to be kept safe. Of course, Bush is no longer president, and some might argue that he is bound to defend and preserve the Act, partly so that the American public retains faith and trust in their government. Nevertheless, from America’s current president, Barack Obama, there are similar views concerning the relevance of the Act today. “That is why, as it has come to time to reauthorize the USA PATRIOT Act, we have been working in a bipartisan way to do both, to show the American people we can track down terrorists without trampling on our civil liberties, to show the American people that the
Federal Government will only issue warrants and execute searches because it needs to do so, not because it can do so” (Mathewson, 2009).
It is clear from this quote that Obama stands by the Act. However, he also recognises that there may be room within the laws for authorities to wrongly exploit them. He goes on to say, “Giving law enforcement the tools they need to investigate suspicious activities is one thing and it is the right thing. But doing it without any real oversight seriously jeopardizes the rights of all Americans and the ideals America stands for.” (Mathewson, 2009).
A further argument in favour of the Patriot Act is that its existence means that American authorities have the required resources to effectively battle terrorism within America. It is undoubtedly the primary aim of Act supporters to protect the citizens of America. Immigration and border control are both vital elements of a successful fight against terrorism.
However, there are many criticisms of the Patriot Act, and these have been widespread. The main criticism is that the Act is too detailed. The Act gives vast amounts of authority to government agencies, allowing them monitor people in the United States, as well as US citizens who are living in different countries (Fritscher, 2007).
Fundamentally, some have argued that the law is a violation of human rights, as well as to the rights of US citizens. With particular regards to title IV of the Act, the free monitoring of foreign students, for example, is seen by some as an invasion of privacy, especially as the student does not need to be behaving suspiciously in order to be investigated.
Some of the key arguments against the Act have stemmed from writing within the American Constitution. It has been claimed that George Bush referred to the constitution as a “piece of paper” (Mathewson, 2009). However, more interesting is that it has been attested that the Patriot Act undermines forth to the eight amendments on the Constitution (Mathewson, 2009).
Within both the earliest Patriot Act and the “amended extensions” that were agreed later on, its anti-Constitution status remains true. It is important to note that the Act is not designed to be used in domestic crimes, and that it should not be used for this purpose. However, there have been cases where this rule failed to be upheld. An example is in the case of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, in which the FBI managed to trace a woman who had cut open a pregnant woman and seal her baby. The investigators traced phone calls and emails and found the woman’s address, and eventually returned the baby to her father (Mathewson, 2009). Although a terrible crime had been committed, the use of such investigations, arguably, should not have been used. Cases such as this one give opposition of the Act further reason to mistrust it and worry about the ways in which it can be used inappropriately.
Overall, the Patriot Act has been a success. Although it has irritated some people, it was introduced, and still exists, with the primary goal of protecting American citizens from terrorism. The solidity of border control and immigration laws are vital in monitoring potential terrorists entering the country and, indeed US citizens who may be involved in terrorism.
The Act was passed in response to the dreadful events of 9/11 and, while some may consider it rash, it was required in calming the American public and reassuring them that the government is acting to fight terrorism and prevent anything so terrible from happening again.
Fritscher, L. (2007). US Patriot Act: Pros and Cons. Lifescript. Retrieved from
Mathewson, J. (2009). The Patriot Act: Advantages and Disadvantages. Western Front
America. Retrieved from http://westernfrontamerica.com/2009/07/04/patriot-act-
Title IV: Border Protection. US Legal. Retrieved from http://civilrights.uslegal.com/usa-