QUESTION. The topic on which you must write is below. Here are my
criteria for this assignment:
1. Your essay should be double-spaced, and checked for grammar and
proper spelling. It must be NO MORE than three pages double-spaced.
2. Excellent essays (i.e. "A" work) is well-written, presented in an
organized fashion (use of subtitles, etc. are up to the individual student),
and show the use of a variety of class sources which are properly
cited. You should strive, to the extent you are able, to integrate the
textbook readings (from both We the People and A Guide to the US
Constitution), as well as any current affairs articles, into your answers.
3. Most important: Do the best you can. Remember that while there are
no "right" or "wrong" answers on this assignment (as with the Discussion
Board), there are excellent, good, average, and below-average
answers. If I believe you have written an exemplary Essay Assignmment
1 answer, I will email you a request to publish your work to our
class. Good luck! (No late papers please; see my syllabus policies for
any questions)
4. IMPORTANT: You MUST attach a WORD file to Essay Assignment #1
(Absolutely NO emailed essays will be accepted). Your file must be
named with your first and last name, followed by Essay 1. EXAMPLE:
"Angela.Romero.Essay 1." Failure to comply with this (basic) file naming
directions will result in a 0 on this assignment.
Essay Assignment 1: The USA PATRIOT Act
The objective of civil liberties is to create a “private sphere”
in which individuals are autonomous and free from
government interference. There is also a presumption that
people have the right to be left alone, to have privacy.
Few would argue, however, that the right of privacy is
absolute. No right is absolute, and we regularly compromise
our privacy in return for something we value even more.
Every new communications technology reduces our privacy.
Note how casually we compromise our private lives every
time we use our credit cards, subscribe to a periodical, run a
red light, or send and receive e-mails, whether for business,
personal, confidential, or illegal affairs. Even our Social
Security and bank account numbers are up for grabs.
The most ardent civil libertarian would find it difficult to
disagree with former Attorney General John Ashcroft when
he said that “ liberty is meaningless without security,” in his
defense of the USA PATRIOT Act. War is the most
fundamental threat to liberty. President Lincoln abruptly and
unilaterally suspended the power of our judiciary to issue
writs of habeas corpus (requiring a show of cause why an
individual is in custody). President Washington, as well as
Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, set up military tribunals to
try, without right of counsel, persons believed to be
collaborators with, or merely sympathizers of, the enemy.
Most dramatically, in 1942 Presidential Roosevelt ordered
over 120,000 Japanese Americans (most of them U.S.
citizens) to internment camps for the duration of World War
II, without consulting Congress and without accusing the
internees of any sort of crime.
Six weeks after September 11, 2001, President Bush
submitted to Congress the USA PATRIOT Act—“Uniting
and Strengthening America
by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept
and Obstruct Terrorism Act.” The 342-page act gave the
federal government power over many different types of
beliefs and associations as well as over activities that could
be interpreted as sympathetic to terrorism from whatever
Although Americans across the ideological spectrum are still
willing to support the USA PATRIOT Act as a hedge against
terrorism, there is also an unmistakable growth of opposition
to many of its provisions, especially those that give the
attorney general immense discretionary power to detain and
imprison “on suspicion” and to use information technology to
engage in “fishing expeditions” within the United States, as
though America were a foreign country. In 2001 many
politicians voted for the act as an emergency measure and
accompanied their support with the assertion that the act
“can be fixed” by Justice Department interpretations, by
judicial review, and even by Congress itself.
Many of the provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act came under
a “ sunset clause” that provided for their termination in 2005.
In 2006, Congress voted to extend these provisions but also
added several new provisions designed to protect civil
Both American liberals and American conservatives fear an
excessively strong state. If we give up the “eternal vigilance”
Jefferson counseled as the price of liberty, we will be giving
the terrorists their victory without their having to fire another
shot or explode another suicide bomb.
For Critical Analysis
Write a three-page double-spaced essay in which you
answer the following questions:
1. In what ways can civil liberties protections and concerns
about national security come into conflict?
2. What should be the proper balance between liberty and
security? Where does the USA PATRIOT Act fall on
this spectrum?
Do you agree with John Ashcroft that civil libertarians
concerned about lost liberties “threatened by the USA
PATRIOT Act are just aiding terrorists”? Why or why not?