he reaction of Congress to the 9/11 terrorists attacks was nothing if not swift. On October 26th, the first version of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 was passed with a massive majority. Its full name, Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, laid out quite clearly the means by which terrorists could be caught, before they had the chance to commit another atrocity. It is a collection of measures designed to enhance the ability of law enforcers to obtain information, by authorising methods of data collection that could not be originally utilised. It has been a constant source of controversy ever since.
Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) believe it wholly undermines the Fourth Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause”. Supporters of the Act, however, claim that's not the case at all; the Patriot Act has simply extended surveillance powers that were already being used by law enforcement agencies to catch organised criminals and they cite the fact that another terrorist attack hasn’t taken place on American soil in proof of its efficacy.
There are compelling arguments on both sides of this debate. Following the death of Osama Bin Laden, and President Obama’s commitment to recall troops from Afghanistan, it is time is to ask if the Patriot Act should continue shaping America’s defence policy, or if it is time to move on from this controversial measure and take a different stance altogether.