US Patriot Act – In depth look, are we being watched for no reason?

By Scott Hall
     In today’s society, it is fairly easy to see what video cameras and unnoticed microphones can do to reveal hidden clues and the uniqueness of being there without being there in person. Even the President of the United States is subject to its magical powers of capture and playback.  Most people have heard the statement, “Big Brother is watching you.” When the United States suffered the losses incurred on September the 11th, 2001, shortly thereafter, the Patriot Act was born and with it surveillance parameters.
     Patriot is actually an acronym for Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.  We all use tools to build things for the betterment of our lives and environments.  An Act of Congress is a statute enacted by a Government with a Legislature, and is usually noted as a Public Law, or Private Law.  The Patriot Act is a Public Law that is designed to allow investigators the freedom to intercept communications, use translators, and acquire funding as well as a variety of privileges afforded by the American Government, at home or abroad.
     Many citizens in the early development of the Patriot Act took it as a measure to invade their personal lives, giving the United States Government the authority to intercept communications of all its citizens.  In actuality, The National Security Act of 1947 had pretty much opened that door, and set parameters for our protection.  Such as, National Intelligence and Intelligence related to National Security refer to ALL intelligence, regardless of the source where it was derived, meaning, inside or outside the United States.  This includes what the President decides is a credible threat, threats against people and property and weapons of mass destruction.  Given the era of the Act, the latter portion was more shaped by America’s use of Atomic Weapons, as shortly after detonating these horrible weapons, our Presidents during those years, expressed deep regret for their use and capability of large scale destruction and includes several years of a “cold war” and nuclear arms races that had to be addressed.
     The Patriot Act modified some of the National Security Act of 1947 to include electronics and modern technologies that have developed since post World War II and provides for intelligence sharing between law enforcement agencies in order to secure our homeland against “credible threats”.  Naturally since there are not enough computer language translators to handle the slang dialect within foreign nationalities, it also provides for translators to help interpret what they hear through audio surveillance.  Audio surveillance may include telephone intercepts, cell phone calls and your Skype™ phone conversations over your “secured” network.  If you are not continuously using keywords like “buying fertilizer for bombs” or “going to blow them up” or any other keywords considered “terroristic” in nature during a conversation, then chances are you will not be investigated, immediately, but with every bad or flagged keyword we use, our chances for a second look go up.
     The Patriot Act does not define what electronic equipment that law enforcement agencies can use or limit them on the power and depth of their usage in the name of protecting the United States.  The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 also had some modifications from the Patriot Act; The FISA prescribes procedures for requesting judicial authorization for electronic surveillance and physical search of persons engaged in espionage or international terrorism against the United States on behalf of a foreign power.  When we look further in to our National Security and some of its origins, we also find the Communications Act of 1934, which relates to wire tapping and outside threats. 
     Yes, “Big Brother” may be watching you.  Yes, “Big Brother” has been around for a lengthy time.  Is the Patriot Act a new focus for the United States to secure our homeland, no.  Homeland security has always been a focus of these United States, the difference, we didn’t have lap top computers in 1934, and we didn’t have cell phones as capable as they are now in 1978.  What we did have are airplanes that took down buildings in 2001, and a country determined to keep up the battle against all enemies, both foreign and domestic, by modifying guidelines to meet the growth of our World, by creating the Patriot Act.       

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