The USA Patriot Act was passed in haste almost immediately after the September 11 attacks and it is alleged that proper debate and deliberations were not conducted leading to draconian laws taking the US back by several centuries so far as civil liberties are concerned. Famous movie maker Moore has made a documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 capturing comments and alleged farce in the passage of this act.
The main advantages of this act, ie, the positive consequence of this ac are:
It gives level playing field to the investigating authorities with those of the law breakers / terrorists. Thus the sweeping powers granted to the investigating authorities in fight against terrorism are given them more teeth which are if used efficiently could help them in tracking down and pinning terrorists or terrorist groups. Terrorist organizations and other law evaders take advantage of the procedures and bureaucratic loopholes and often play with the lacunae present in the system to escape the dragnet.
The investigations can proceed at a much faster pace. This is another obvious advantage which would enable nabbing of terrorists and allow the investigating authorities to move in tandem with the criminals. Earlier the number of permissions sought in surveillance etc would need a number of clearances before getting used. As per a government website, life and liberty, ” it allows law enforcement to conduct investigations without tipping off terrorists.”
Bolsters the morale of the law enforcement personnel. This act supports the personnel entrusted with the job of keeping nation safe from the hands of the terrorists. They no longer feel that they are working with their hands tied behind their backs and that terrorists manage to outsmart them due to shackle like processes and procedures which are based on the principle ” innocent till proved guilty” and the proof to be obtained only by above board investigation.
The three main disadvantages or negative consequences of this act are:
It curbs the civil liberties of all suspects. Under this act, mere suspicion can send the investigators crawling under a suspect’s house without the suspect knowing or permitting anything about it. Even if he/she turns out to be completely innocent later on, there is no remedy for the harassment and humiliation.
Alienation of certain sections of society. The part of the society whose population is more subject to being eyed suspiciously would at first be bewildered and then get estranged from the mainstream due to prejudices and might support terrorism actively rather than be passive spectators and fence sitters.
Prone to misuse. It is quite apparent that this act could also lose its spirit and be misused by unscrupulous officers to falsify results or settle scores.
In my opinion, this act has more positives than negatives though the weight of negatives could have been perceived to be higher had the twin towers not been gutted on 9/11. The brazen plot and even more bizarre execution of this single terrorist act horrified the world and showed what some demented section of our society can be capable of. Of course it does not mean that in order to avenge the death of countless innocents, more innocents should be harassed. Yet it is quite clear that the terrorists do not play by set rules and they will not stop at anything thus the government agencies too needed an act which lightened the procedural baggage, thus the act could still be refined to take care of above mentioned concerns but overall it is a step in the right direction
http://www. lifeandliberty. gov/highlights. htm accessed on 02/11/2008