Today 10th anniversary of the Patriot Act; feelings still strongTen years have passed since President George W. Bush signed the 2001 Patriot Act, but some people still have strong feelings on the controversial bill used to prevent terrorism.
By: April Baumgarten, The Dickinson Press
Ten years have passed since President George W. Bush signed the 2001 Patriot Act, but some people still have strong feelings on the controversial bill used to prevent terrorism.
“I understand the intent and what it should do,” District 36 Rep. Shirley Meyer, D-Dickinson, said. “It’s just a little disconcerting that it perhaps goes too far.”
The USA Patriot Act, or Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, was drafted into law in response to terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The bill’s intent was “to deter and punish terrorist acts” and “enhance law enforcement investigatory tools and for other purposes,” according to the act’s language.
The bill was introduced Oct. 23, 2001. It passed the U.S. House of Representatives 357 to 66 and the U.S. Senate 98 to 1. Three days later it was signed into law.
The only senator to vote against the Patriot Act was Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., who wrote in a letter “the Patriot Act was a blatant power-grab that gave unprecedented, unchecked power to the government to arrest, detain and spy on our nation’s citizens.”
“I witnessed a dangerous and deeply offensive attitude develop — if you wanted to support your country, you had to support the Patriot Act,” Feingold wrote.
Feingold added Muslims were the main target of the law, and citizens should “redouble our efforts to rein in the abuses of power that law still allows.”
Meyer said she hoped the bill wouldn’t target any groups. However, she said it “crossed the line” on some issues.
“You have people who are going to say we are going to go look at your tax records,” Meyer said. “There’s reason we have securities in place we have had for years.”
The act does impose on freedoms, said John Enderle, North Dakota Republican Party District 36 chairman, but “as distasteful as it was, it was something that needed to be done at the time.”
“There is so much home-grown terrorism,” Enderle said. “We have proof that is something that still needs to be done.”
Enderle said there have been no major terrorist attacks in the U.S. since 9/11, adding the Patriot Act must be doing something right.
“There have been a great many plots and attempted bombings that have been discovered,” Enderle said. “Something must be working.”
Meyer said it’s a balancing act between security and freedoms, but there are limits to what the government can do.
“I understand the need for security, but when you start taking away people’s civil rights away you really have to step back, and privacy is one of those,” Meyer said.
On May 26, President Barack Obama signed a measure extending three provisions of the act — roving wiretaps, court ordered searches of business records and surveillance of non-American “lone wolf” suspects without confirmed ties to terrorist groups — for four years.