In the past year, since the attacks of September 11th, 2001, there have been many changes in the laws of this country. Congress has passed many new laws, with the intention of making our country a more secure place to live. However, some of the new legislation leaves some people feeling a little uneasy about their privacy. The question is, should we have to sacrifice privacy for safety? How safe are we really, when all of our personal private information is out in the wide open for the whole world to see?
The Patriot Act The most significant immigration-related bill passed in 2001 was the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. " (Faegre & Benson) It gives the government many objectionable authorities, most of which are argued as unconstitutional. Since "it was passed with virtually no public hearing or debate" (Chang), it is not at all surprising that so many people are opposed to it. It is not so much the amount of power given to the government by this bill, but that it is openly stated that the government will be practicing these things, and that it will be perfectly legal.
Screening incoming and outgoing calls and keeping records of electronic communications are just a few of the actions that are allowed under intelligence gathering in this bill. People fear that if we "sacrifice our political freedoms in the name of national security" (Chang) we would essentially be giving up all of our freedoms, and allowing our government to walk all over us. We would be giving up our civil liberties, and the smallest of our privacies presently taken for granted, would be lost. The "democratic values that define our nation" (Chang) would slowly and quietly slip away.
In present day society, it is these simple things that give us our sense of freedom. It is what sets our nation apart from the rest. And it has for so long, made us Proud to be Americans. Congress is considering a few "key" issues that are being used as supporting material for a bill with such open limitations. "Law enforcement and intelligence agencies already possess broad authority to conduct investigations of suspected terrorist activity. In fact, Congress approved new surveillance powers to combat terrorism in late 1998.
Describing those provisions after enactment, an FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) national security official said that "any one of these extremely valuable tools could be the keystone of a successful operation" against sophisticated foreign terrorists. " (EPIC) The next issues are those Congress are taking into consideration when thinking about the respect of American citizens. "Any expansion of existing authorities should be based upon a clear and convincing demonstration of need. Congress should assess the likely effectiveness of any proposed new powers in combating the threats posed by terrorist activity.
Any new authorities deemed necessary should be narrowly drawn to protect the privacy and constitutional rights of the millions of law-abiding citizens who use the Internet and other communications media on a daily basis. " (EPIC) These considerations will help ensure that steps are being taken to protect our safety and freedom. Not all sections in this bill are things of a questionable nature. Some of the new policies on aliens and immigration are very good ideas. They have been instated to ensure that the things that were able to slip by before 9/11 will never again support unthinkable acts such as these.
The cooperation between the various agencies, such as the FBI, CIA (Central Intelligent Agency), NSA (National Security Agency) and many of the other various agencies, is essential to the war on terrorism. It is vital that these agencies find an easier, more reliable way of sharing records and other various documents that will protect our country. If several agencies will be making sure the citizens of this country are safe, then they should all have the same access to such pertinent information.
Two new programs being stressed by this bill are the background checks on foreign/exchange student participants, and the protection of our northern border. Since terrorists seemingly became functional members of our society pre 9/11, we should all be able to appreciate the importance of screening even the most unsuspected of our visitors. And even though we have had little to no problems with our northern friends from Canada, it is not a bad idea to start practicing a little caution. You never know who might have been able to slip through the cracks and get into the country. Emergency Response Fund
This is a bill that was passed to provide emergency supplemental appropriations for fiscal year 2001 for additional disaster assistance, for anti-terrorism initiatives, for assistance in the recovery from the tragedy that occurred on September 11, and for other purposes. "For emergency expenses to respond to the terrorist attacks on the United States that occurred on September 11, 2001, to provide assistance to the victims of the attacks, and to deal with other consequences of the attacks, $40,000,000,000, to remain available until expended, including for the costs of: (1) providing Federal, State, and local reparedness for mitigating and responding to the attacks; (2) providing support to counter, investigate, or prosecute domestic or international terrorism; (3) providing increased transportation security; (4) repairing public facilities and transportation systems damaged by the attacks; and (5) supporting national security: Provided, That these funds may be transferred to any authorized Federal Government activity to meet the purposes of this Act. " (DePauw Univ. ) This bill will enable our government to plan for the future needs in the war against terrorism.
This was one of the first of many changes made to the Federal budget in the time since 9/11. It is a fact that this is a problem that will not be solved quickly and it is clear to the government that they must plan for this new reality. Public Law 107-37 "This law provides for the expedited payment of certain benefits for a law enforcement officer who had been killed or suffered a catastrophic injury as a direct and proximate result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty in connection with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. (DePauw Univ. ) It is all to clear that all law enforcement personnel will be dealing with a new enemy. This enemy will stop at nothing to weaken our defenses and this law provides for the families pf these brave individuals who will suffer as a result of this. I think this is the first law, of many, that will be set up to support the families the war on terrorism will affect. New Security The 'Port and Maritime Security Act of 2001' added more extensive seaport security by increasing the level of security at all sea borders.
This would make some feel a little safer about the security around our borders. However, on September 14, 2001, when Congress passed into Public Law 107-40, making available 'all necessary and appropriate force' for fighting terrorism, safety was once again questionable. Some argue that it is unconstitutional to put so much power in the hands of Congress. Who decides how much force is appropriate, and by what means? This so called 'new security' around our borders is no longer sufficient. Who knows what means will be used at any given time, and what the outcome will be.
If this occurs at our borders, it is impossible to say whether more innocent civilians will die, solely due to improper judgment by some Congressmen who didn't thoroughly think things through. The agency facing the most changes as a result of September 11th is the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). There have been more changes in FAA regulations in the past year, than ever before. Some of the most important changes occurred within the first few weeks after 9/11. Just a couple of the objectionable include: (1) the development of facial recognition technology, which allows passenger profiling.
It can be argued that this practice is unconstitutional because the purpose is to "... ensure that security systems are focused on appropriate targets. "(Thomas) This can be construed as racial profiling if not gone about in an extremely careful manner. And (2) background checks on individuals who will be flying. This practice is argued by many as unconstitutional. The FAA should not have access to anyone's vital information, not to mention the inconvenience it would be for frequent flyers and last minute travelers.
It is going to take some time, but we will eventually get used to not having the laid-back atmosphere we are all used to having at airports pre 9/11. A huge concern immediately following the terrorist attacks was how some people were sadly "... misguiding anger toward Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans" (Thomas). For a short while, some people in this country started to commit hate crimes against people of middle-eastern descent. It is understandable that these people found it frustrating not knowing who was to blame for these terrible events.
But Congress recognized this problem and in order to protect the civil rights and liberties of those being unjustfully attacked, on Oct 2, 2001, it was passed that 'Bigotry and violence against Sikh-Americans' would not be tolerated. Bills pertaining to things of this nature are probably the only ones that were passed while being supported by the Bill of Rights. There is absolutely no reason for objection of these bills. Their sole purpose is to protect our rights. On Oct 9, 2001 Congress passed a law giving hiring priority to certain people who fit into specified categories, who lost their jobs as a result of the terrorist attacks.
Priority was given for thirty days, and only to aviation related jobs. It is unfair for Congress to grant privileges to some, and not others, especially when you consider that there were millions of other industries that suffered greatly, and resulted in layoffs. This could be argued as unconstitutional. There are strict laws in this country prohibiting employers from discriminating in their hiring practices. Therefore, it is a violation of our rights to give certain priorities to some, and not others.
It is understandable that some things must be sacrificed in order to ensure our nations safety. But the people must be involved. The sacrifices must be voluntary. There will be absolutely no faith left in the government if they come in and just say 'we're taking this from you, whether you like it or not. ' The way these issues are approached is much more important now than ever before. The less 'the people' are involved, the more they feel that this is just an excuse that Congress is using in order to hide a power struggle. To see just how much they can take from us.
Well, the people will not just sit back and let the government strip them of everything they know. It is quite possible that much of these things have been taking place for quite some time without people even knowing. Perhaps this would have been the best way to leave it. What you don't know can't hurt you, right? As we just found out the hard way, WRONG! Since the people of this nation are no longer willing to let the government be silent in its ways, the lawmakers must learn to incorporate the people's rights and views into theirs. After all, that's their true purpose, isn't it?