In the name of national security, the Patriot Act was passed to further the "war on terrorism." In a general sense, it gives the Executive Branch broad powers to investigate possible criminal activity. More specifically it does the following:
- Expanded protections against domestic terrorism – Greater ability for policing authorities to wiretap, survey, harass, and keep track of political advocacy groups
- Expanded access to "secret information" – Greater ability for police authorities to conduct secret searches, maintain phone and Internet surveillance, and view medical, financial, mental health, and student records with minimal judicial oversight
- "Intelligence purpose investigations" – Gives high level police authorities the ability to investigate criminal matters without probable cause, if investigation is for "intelligence purposes"
- Detention or non-admittance of terrorism suspects – Gives police authorities the ability to detain or jail suspected terrorists or terrorist associates entering into or already present in the US for up to six months without judicial review
A plethora of constitutional rights are arguably being affected by the Patriot Act and more and more advocacy groups are protesting the Act every day. The following rights are presently affected by the Patriot Act:
- First Amendment Rights: Freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and the press
- Fourth Amendment Rights: Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizure
- Fifth Amendment Rights: Freedoms of life, liberty, and due process of law
- Sixth Amendment Rights: Rights of speedy public trial, unbiased jury, assistance of counsel, confrontation of witnesses, and to be informed of the accusations against you
- Eighth Amendment Rights: Rights against excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment
- Fourteenth Amendment Rights: Right of due process and equal protection under the law
The Patriot Act is a challenging and highly debated new area of the law in the United States. A good government lawyer can determine whether your rights have been violated by authorities using the Patriot Act as a pretense for your detention and/or imprisonment.