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Terrorism and the Patriot Act

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Since 9/11, the United States federal government has gone to great lengths in order to capture terrorists and prevent further attacks. Although many measures came up in the last several years, the legal president that started it all was the Patriot Act. According to the Patriot Act, sections 201 and 201 (2001), the United States federal government granted itself many legal leeway’s into intercepting communications from possible terrorists. This essentially means that the Department of Homeland Security is capable to observe private phone conversations, emails and other forms of communications, if they have some sort of suspicion of terrorist ties or leads. The definition of what constitutes reasons is rather large, and most individuals who come under the eye of the Department are never the wiser. Since its inception in 2001, the Patriot Act has come under scrutiny from many different sides, stating it is an encroachment on personal privacy. However, I believe that it keeps us safe and prevents further terrorist attacks. It isn’t necessarily a loss of freedom, just that someone else might overhear parts of a conversation.

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According to Katarina Uhalova (2007), The Patriot Act allows the federal government to listen phone conversations, for a limited time, if it has reason to believe a person is some sort of terrorist communication. Although some believe this takes away freedom, I do not. When I think about it, how often does a complete stranger hear part of my phone conversation? Or how often do I hear someone talking loudly with his or her headset up on the bus, subway or in the mall. A few years ago there were push-to-talk cell phones, where anyone could easily hear both sides of the conversation.  Those people don’t really seem to have a problem with others listening to them. To me, this is a very small price to pay in order to feel and stay safe and I’m perfectly comfortable if, for whatever reason, part of my phone calls is listened. I have nothing to hide, so I’m sure after a few minutes, as in the case of someone standing next to me at the bus stop, they will stop listening to my conversation.

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Another issue and possibly a loss of rights to citizens occur at the airport, with body scans. Many people see this as a violation of their personal rights, as the scan completely x-rays the entire body, exposing almost everything to the technician. As Patrick G. Lee (2011) of the Wall Street Journal reports, a federal appeals court recently struck down a lawsuit against the government with these machines, as the court stated ‘individual privacy must be balanced against the promotion of legitimate government interests.’ I can see why people don’t like these machines, although I am again for this kind of equipment. The scan is over so quickly and the next person is in there is not likely to be any misconduct by the operators saving images, and I’d rather feel safe on plans than wonder about other passengers. I’d hate for another plane to go down simply because the technology was removed. To me, having a body scan far outweighs a plane going down because of a terrorist attack. I just don’t see the comparison and because of it I am perfectly comfortable and willing to give up these small rights to stay safe. 

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