The Patriot Act, Cyber-Surveillance and Civil Rights

Does the  cyber-surveillance utilized by the government based on the USA PATRIOT Act violates civil rights of individuals.

The cyber-surveillance employed by the US government on the basis of the law commonly christened the Patriot Act breaches individuals’ civil rights. The act was enacted in 2001. It was put together rather quickly. Evidently, the act contains sweeping impacts on citizens’ privacy rights (Brasch, 2005). Over the years, numerous human rights agencies have expressed their concern that the act infringes the rights illegally. Every cyber-surveillance executed on the basis of the act infringes individuals’ civil rights.

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The act grants the government unchecked power to engage in cyber-surveillance. The act enhances the cyber-surveillance powers of the government as regards the searching of individuals’ online records, even the ones in hands of third parties such as providers of internet services. The act markedly expands a contracted Fourth Amendment exemption originally at allowing for the gathering of intelligence information, including online information, on foreign entities (Alexander & Kraft, 2007). Under the act, the government is not legally obliged to show proof that the persons it seeks to carry out cyber-surveillance on are foreign power agents beforehand.

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Especially, the cyber-surveillance powers that the government draws from the act’s Section 215 are illegal since they infringe on the rights guaranteed to individuals by the constitution in various ways (Brasch, 2005). First, the section violates the constitution since it allows the government to execute cyber-searches devoid of getting the requisite warrants and demonstrating that it has credible cause to consider the subjects of the searches as likely to engage in crime or as having engaged in crime. Second, in contravention of the provisions of the First Amendment, those who get orders to cyber-search information on given subjects are not obligated by the act to relay information to them regarding the orders (Alexander & Kraft, 2007; Brasch, 2005).

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Third, the act allows the FBI to engage in cyber-investigations on given individuals without due regard to their First Amendment-guaranteed speech freedom. Fourth, in breach of the Fourth Amendment, the act does not obligate the government or its agents to provide the persons whose privacy they compromise with the requisite notices (Alexander & Kraft, 2007; Brasch, 2005). Notably, one of the principal due process’ elements is notice. The Fifth Amendment guarantees the element.

Regardless of the obvious unconstitutionality of the act and the fact that it infringes on several individual civil rights, its supporters contend that it is rather handy in safeguarding national security. Even then, the rights should never be superseded by national security considerations. Americans should make certain that the approaches they adopt to fight terrorism have no potential for attacking the elementary freedoms that are the nation’s foundation. The national security concept is an imaginary, or psychological, state that is not definable (Alexander & Kraft, 2007). As a phrase, national security characterizes an impossibility.

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The threats faced by the US faces have become smaller and smaller over time. One can say with certainty that there has never been and there will never be a nationwide threat to the country’s security. All the security-related destructions that country can suffer can never be nationwide, district-wide, or even town-wide. Clearly, the phrase communicates no meaning in a country whose area stretches millions of square miles. The government knows the hollowness of the phrase quite well but employs it merely as a rallying call for fear. In any case, the harm that the government can cause to individual civil rights when pursuing national security agendas would be worse and more widespread than the harm that external enemies can cause on the rights at any given time.

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