Civil Liberties Paper

This essay has a total of 1254 words and 6 pages.

Civil Liberties



CIVIL LIBERTIES: A LOOK INTO THE FUTURE
After September 11, 2001, in the United States of America, many aspects of our daily lives
have changed. One notable change has been the creation of the Department of Homeland
Security. Many bills are being drafted to ensure the safety of the United States. We, as
Americans, are going to have to sacrifice many of our civil liberties due to this tragic
event. There are many good reasons why these bills are being drafted, but there are also
negative effects such as the loss of civil rights. One particular bill being drafted is
the USA PATRIOT Act. The USA PATRIOT Act puts the CIA back in the business of spying on
Americans. It permits a vast array of information gathering on U.S. citizens from
financial transactions, school records, Internet activity, telephone conversations,
information gleaned from grand jury proceedings and criminal investigations to be shared
with the CIA (and other non-law enforcement officials) even if it pertains to Americans.
Most importantly, the information would be shared without a court order.

While there is a need to shut down the financial resources used to further acts of
terrorism, this legislation goes beyond its stated goal of combating international
terrorism and instead reaches into innocent customers' personal financial transactions. If
the USA PATRIOT Act becomes a law, financial institutions would monitor daily financial
transactions even more closely and be required to share information with other federal
agencies, including foreign intelligence agencies such as the CIA. Section 358 requires
that, in addition to law enforcement, intelligence agencies would also receive suspicious
activity reports. These reports are usually about wholly domestic transactions of people
in the United States, and do not relate to foreign intelligence information. In addition,
Section 358 would allow law enforcement and intelligence agencies to get easy access to
individual credit reports in secret. There would be no judicial review and no notice to
the person to whom the records relate. Through these provisions, the CIA would be put back
in the business of spying on Americans, and law enforcement and intelligence agencies
would have a range of personal financial information without ever showing good cause as to
why such information is relevant to a particular investigation.

Since September 11, Federal, state, and local law enforcement officials have faced few
barriers in accessing student information. According to the American Association of
Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, about 200 colleges and universities have
turned over student information to the FBI, INS, and other law enforcement officials.
Investigators have accessed information about foreign exchange students, students in
particular fields of study, including flight training, and students of particular
ethnicities, including US citizens. However, law enforcement officials want even easier
access to a broader range of student information. Section 508 of the USA PATRIOT Act would
allow law enforcement to access the student data collected for the purpose of statistical
research under the National Education Statistics Act (NESA). The NESA includes a vast
amount of identifiable student information and -until now- has been held to strict
confidentiality requirements without exception. While the bill requires a court order, it
would be issued based on a mere certification that the records are relevant to an
investigation. This standard is insufficient to protect the privacy of sensitive
information contained in student records.

The USA PATRIOT Act permits a wide sharing of sensitive information gathered in criminal
investigations by law enforcement agencies with intelligence agencies including the CIA
and the NSA. Section 203(a) of the bill would permit law enforcement agents to provide to
the CIA foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information revealed to a grand jury.
No court order would be required. As a result, the foreign intelligence information about
Americans that could be shared with the CIA is not necessarily information to protect
against attacks, or is necessary to the national defense or security of the United States.
Section 203(b) would permit law enforcement officers to share with the CIA intercepts of
telephone and Internet conversations. Again, no court order would be necessary to
authorize the sharing of this sensitive information. While some sharing of information may
be appropriate in some limited circumstances, it should be done with strict safeguards.
These safeguards include protecting information about U.S. persons from disclosure to the
CIA, requiring a court approval for disclosure, limiting disclosure to foreign
intelligence information as defined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, limiting
disclosure to foreign governments, and requiring that disclosed information be marked to
indicate how it was obtained and how it can and cannot be used or disseminated. The bill
lacks all of these safeguards.
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