Obama Signs Patriot Act Renewal

Author: A Lock
Published: May 29, 2011 at 8:58 am

Minutes before midnight on Friday, President Obama, while in France, signed an extension of parts of the USA Patriot Act, the controversial post-9/11 measures passed to ostensibly aid fight potential terrorist activities. These allow for wire tapping, “authorized for a person rather than a communications line or device; court-ordered searches of business records; and surveillance of non-American ‘lone wolf’ suspects without confirmed ties to terrorist groups”. These parts are a small portion of the USA Patriot Act that must be “renewed periodically because of concerns that they could be used to violate privacy rights”.

The laws were set to expire at midnight; hence ironic timing. “Minutes before midnight” is the infamous term for the final moments the world experiences before humans trigger a nuclear apocalypse. Although the Patriot Act is not military devastation, I elaborate on the irony of the term because, like nuclear weapons, the Patriot Act is controversial in a similar way vis-à-vis security: the danger nuclear weapons pose need not be stated, but there are many who argue that the threat of mutually assured destruction that they can create actually helps to prevent wars. Regarding the question of liberties, privacy and “innocent until proven guilty” that the Patriot Act brings up, many oppose it and see it as undemocratic and against America’s founding principles; whereas others see it as necessary to ensure the best protection for America and her allies against terrorism.

The loudest concern came from Republican Rand Paul from Kentucky, and my fellow Technorati contributor Layllah Therion succinctly expresses the concerns of those opposed to the Act. In the words of Senator Mark Udall, the law on collecting business records can expose innocent citizens to government scrutiny. “If we cannot limit investigations to terrorism or other nefarious activities, where do they end?”

President Obama described the laws as “an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat”. The senate voted 72-23 for the law and renewing three terrorism-fighting authorities, and the House passed the measure 250-153. Ongoing investigations would not have been interrupted without the renewal, but the government would have been prevented from seeking warrants for new investigations.

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