The Bush Administration has done some very controversial things these past several years, and not the least of these is the introduction of the Patriot Act. The Act, officially known as the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, was passed 45 days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and other planned terrorist attacks throughout the United States. The point of the Act was to make it easier for the U.S. government to search through individual medical and financial files, emails and other communications for the purpose of exposing further terrorist plots. Understandably, this has triggered a loud voice of protest from Americans who feel their rights of privacy are being sacrificed.
Notably, the Patriot Act allows for law enforcement agencies in America to search files and dwellings of people within the country without the same documentation as is needed in other cases, so long as the crime or plot in question is linked with terrorist activity. Whereas a person suspected of theft or any other kind of crime is protected under the criminal law system to the extent that there must be sufficient cause to go in and make an arrest or to search the house, the Patriot Act means that anyone accused of terrorism might be arrested and searched at a moment’s notice without such evidence.
The Patriot Act therefore has changed the entirety of the criminal law system in the United States because now law enforcement agents and the entire population of the country must understand that terrorism stands alone from all other crimes and it will be treated differently. This is clearly in contrast to the established criminal law system that takes the rights of a suspect into consideration along with the rights of other citizens to be protected from a criminal. Although we have all been brought up to believe that our justice system maintains that we are ‘innocent until proven guilty’, the Patriot Act flies right in the face of this basic right and it is because of this that many people are concerned that the criminal law system is changing in a negative way.
Once this fundamental aspect of the American justice system is called into question, the government is given more and more control in a nation that prides itself on preserving personal freedoms. The Patriot Act is essentially viewed as the beginning of a major change in the focus of the criminal justice system where the rights of the individual are sacrificed for the safety of the entire country. Since 2001, the Act has been responsible for what many citizens refer to as spying, all in the name of national security. Where the criminal law system will go next is yet to be determined because as the government pulls for more insight into the habits of its residents, the people are also wanting to preserve their own rights to privacy.