How does the Patriot Act strip away the Bill of Rights?

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Answered by: casey, An Expert in the Your Rights Category
The Bill of Rights, written by James Madison, was adopted in 1791. Added to the constitution to protect citizens' individual liberties and rights, there design was to keep citizens safe from the over reach of government. Freedoms the ten amendments outline, and protect have always hung in a delicate balance of interpretation by the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, they have always seemed to do exactly what they were meant to: allow citizens to express freely, be treated fairly, and live how they see fit without government influence. These basic, unalienable rights are now being violated. It is happening in such a way that many do not even notice it.

On September 11th, 2001 America witnessed an atrocity. What exactly happened on that day is still, by many accounts, unclear. One of the consequences, though, is very clear. Using the fear generated after the 9/11 attacks, George Bush signed into law the Patriot Act. A piece of legislation that stomps on American rights in the name of terrorism. Anger and fear cloud the mind, producing irrational thoughts and feelings. So much so that citizens will give up civil liberties to defend freedom. For example, Amendment IV protects citizens from illegal search and seizure. It asks that a warrant for probable cause be given before any personal search can be done. The act completely ignores this in the name of terrorism. It states that the government may search and seize at any time without a warrant to assist in terror investigations. Regardless of the reasons, this violates one of our most fundamental rights, and is vague on what constitutes "terrorism" in the first place. This applies to citizens of the U.S. just to be clear.

Everyone wants to feel safe, and a violation like the 9/11 attacks brings into question how safe one can be. On the other hand, the chances of being killed by a terrorist is highly improbable, with a long list of deadly things that could happen many times over before a terrorist ever had the chance. When a person feels violated as many did on 9/11, their emotions shift into overdrive leaving logic screaming in the dark recesses of the gray matter. This is exactly what happened, and the Patriot Act is the result of people thinking with emotions. Another right, Amendment VI of the Bill of Rights, gives citizens the right to a fair and speedy trial by jury, with the support of counsel. The act gives the power of the government to imprison Americans indefinitely, without a trial or counsel. Of course it says terrorism in this law too, but that word can be thrown around pretty loosely, and defined in many different ways. In any case, It should not matter if a citizen is considered a terrorist. The Bill of Rights applies to all citizens, not just some.

In the name of terror these acts are brought against the American people by their own government. These attacks were supposedly committed by foreign citizens. Why then are American's rights being squashed? The act is a deeply disturbing infringement of the most basic rights that our country has held dear for over two hundred years. Not only that, but it has made every citizen suspicious of each other, and increased intolerance for one another. This act also allows the government to monitor different political and religious institutions regarding terrorist investigations. This violates are right to assemble peacefully and the freedom of association. Terrorism is a vague word, that is only given meaning by the person using it. Freedom fighter to one individual, is a terrorist to another, and the only difference is whose view it is seen from. That is one of the most dangerous part of this act. Terrorism is so loosely defined that, under the current circumstances, anyone in this country could be associated with terrorism.

Many other rights are crushed by this act, but the thing is that most citizens of this country have grown complacent. Only when the gestapo is knocking on their door do they really see what rights they have. Educated citizens make informed decisions. If rights are given up willingly in the name of safety, then maybe rights should be lost. No government has the best interests of it's citizens in front, even this one. Only those that challenge the status quo, will reap the rewards of changing it. If all are suspects, then trust is dead, and social change will be stifled be division of citizens.

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