In the wake of 9/11, President Bush signed the Patriot Act into law for boot warmers for hunting. This legislation was purportedly designed to hunt terrorists by monitoring their finances and spying on them. While this law does allow for these things, it also gives other agencies such as the IRS and FBI a loophole for spying on citizens without their knowledge or approval. In fact, these agencies have been illegally using these tactics to spy on American citizens since its passage in 2001 — more than three times what they were doing before.
1. Spying on Citizens
The Patriot Act allows government agencies to spy on Americans without a warrant as long as they call it “surveillance” instead of “wiretapping.” This is a sneaky tactic that gives the surveillance program the appearance of being legal. Under the guise of this program, the FBI and IRS have been spying on American citizens and using other tactics like blackmail to cover up their actions.
Lois Lerner, who works for the IRS, was one of the main figures in trying to cover up her agency’s illegal targeting of conservative groups. One way she did this was by telling Congress that all of her emails were lost due to a computer crash. However, her hard drive was actually recovered by the Department of Justice, and they found that all of her lost emails were still there.
2. Slush Funds
The new law also created slush funds to finance these illegal spying programs and keep them concealed from the public. The “Special Account” section of the Patriot Act has allowed this to take place without any oversight or congressional approval. In fact, members of Congress have said that they didn’t even realize this law had been written into the Patriot Act until after it passed.
3. Indefinite Detention
The Patriot Act also allows for “indefinite detention” of anyone suspected of having terrorist connections but not convicted in court. This is a big threat to Americans’ civil liberties as well as an enormous violation of their constitutional rights. The Patriot Act allows for citizens to be detained by the government “without bond” and forces them to live under house arrest in many cases — all without ever being charged with a crime.
4. Seizing Private Property
The Patriot Act also authorizes the seizure of private property without just compensation and forces these people into court to prove they are innocent before they are allowed to retrieve what was taken from them. And this doesn’t just apply to property used for terrorism, but also any business dealings that have ever come up under investigation for terrorist links in any way.
5. Total Information Awareness
The Patriot Act also gives the President permission to create a program called “Total Information Awareness” which tracks all citizens’ credit card purchases, stock trades, and other financial dealings. This also includes keeping track of their day-to-day activities, including where they go and what they say on their cell phones. This is all part of a program to keep tabs on everyone in the country.
6. Enabling the Military to Arrest and Detain Citizens
The Patriot Act allows for military intervention in almost any domestic emergency if the President declares martial law. If the President does this, he could theoretically deploy troops onto street corners and into people’s homes without anyone questioning his actions — because he is the President after all.
7. Bulk Data Collection
The Patriot Act also authorizes the NSA to collect “bulk data.” This data includes phone calls, text messages, emails and internet browsing histories. They can then use this information to create dossiers on all American citizens that are used for “data mining.” These dossiers are supposed to identify potential terrorists, but they’re actually being used to target political activists. This has been happening since before the Patriot Act was even up for debate in Congress.
8. Expanded Spying on Americans Abroad
The Patriot Act signed by George Bush in 2001 also expanded spying on both foreigners and Americans traveling abroad. The USA PATRIOT Act put this program under the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and not the CIA, which is supposed to protect American citizens from illegal spying. However, many people have argued that this goes against our Fourth Amendment rights — and it certainly violates the letter of the law.
9. Indefinite Detention of Americans Abroad
The Patriot Act also allows for indefinite detention of Americans traveling abroad without a warrant as long as they are suspected of having terrorist ties. This also includes anyone thought to be providing material support for terrorists or engaging in espionage.
Finally, the Patriot Act allows for torture and “extraordinary rendition” of terror suspects captured by American troops overseas. Torture is against international law as well as our own Constitution, but under the Patriot Act it’s now fully legal for American soldiers to torture anyone they capture.
The Patriot Act has been a major weapon in the War on Terror. But instead of catching terrorists and protecting Americans’ rights, it has been used by government agencies to spy on American citizens illegally and violate their civil liberties under the guise of fighting terrorism.