By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
The USA Patriot Act of 2001
How will we fight and win this war? We will direct every resource at our command--every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war--to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network. --President Bush, September 20, 2001
With little debate, the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT ACT) of 2001 was passed just six weeks after the September 11 attacks. Though several elected officials expressed trepidation at what appeared to be a dismantling of the first, fourth, fifth, and sixth amendments to the Constitution, only one member of the Senate, Russell Feingold (D-Wisc.), had the courage to vote against it.
The media was slow to pick up on the controversial provisions of the act, which, within its more than 275 pages, amended dozens of existing criminal and civil statutes. It wasn't until mid-2002, when the Justice Department began to hand down indictments under the act, that people started to take notice.
The act expanded guilt by association to the point that the most tenuous connection to a "terrorist organization" (as designated by the Secretary of State) can now lead to charges. Several groups of people have been indicted for operating terrorist cells in Portland, Buffalo, Detroit, and Moscow, Idaho. The trial in the Detroit case began in the third week of March and is expected to last for six weeks or more. Some charges against Muslim charities have led to plea bargains to drop terrorist charges in exchange for pleas to minor tax or fraud charges. The government's successes in the courtroom have not, to date, matched John Ashcroft's bravado in announcing the indictments in public press conferences. But the chilling effect of being arrested for crimes of terror cannot be underestimated, as many American citizens and resident aliens have learned.
Some of the more drastic incursions on civil liberties resulting from these Patriot Act provisions: