The Patriot Act, Ten Years Later

Ten years ago American civil liberties took a giant step back with the authorization of the Patriot Act.† The law, still in effect today, dramatically expanded the police powers exercised on average citizens, circumventing traditional constitutional protections.

Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, was the only Senate vote against authorization of the Patriot Act and offered this statement to mark the anniversary:

“Ten years ago today, President Bush signed the Patriot Act into law, a blatant power-grab that gave unprecedented, unchecked power to the government to arrest, detain, and spy on our nationís citizens with little or no judicial oversight. Sadly, this law still results in the unjust intrusion and harassment of too many Americans. So now, on the tenth anniversary of the enactment of the Patriot Act, we must redouble our efforts to rein in the abuses of power that law still allows, and we must all work to honor and restore our common heritage of basic rights. ”

The legacy of the Patriot Act will be hard to shake. Law enforcement has grown accustomed to searches without probable cause, to warrantless wiretaps, and to hiding behind the “state secrets” doctrine. Once civil liberties erode, they are almost always impossible to get back.

Thankfully the Patriot Act requires re-authorization, which means the grant of power can be taken away. But after ten years, the ability to do so only becomes more difficult. Hopefully, for the sake of our constitutional democracy, it is not an impossibility.

Photo from D.C. Attny via flickr.


Nikolas Karman
Nikolas K5 years ago

I wish Americans luck in getting this Act repealed but since most are unable to think for themselves I fail to see how it will be done. It was in fear that they allowed it to happen in the first place.

Rita Walpole A.
Rita Walpole A6 years ago

Steven B. mentions the Greedy Old Party's setting up of 'free speech zones'. What was not mentioned was the Dems. did in 2008 - same lodge, different local.

Put on the legal hat and back into court I went with two very good attorney friends, following the early day arrest of two peace and justice activists at the Dem. Colorado State Convention, who had stood ourside the police cutoff lines outside the main door of the building that housed the convention. While free speech zones had been discussed, and police had done a vague pointing at an area a sizable distance from where Dem. elected dels. and alts. could see or hear protestors, no signs or roped in areas existed.

For approx. twenty minutes, the men held their "Dems, Please Stop Funding the War in Iraq" banner, and the vast majority of Dem. convention participants waved and cheered at them and their banner as the participants entered building's front doors. Then came the cops, handcuffing them, forcing them into the cop car, and charging them twice (the first charge, obstruction, was dropped in a couple of hours and replaced with a charge of trespass, which inferred the Dem. State Party who had rented the building concurred in the arrest - never verified). The men were taken to two stations, the first nearby, and the second at the extreme opposit end of the city. At the end of the day, when they finally were released and found a way the lengthy way back to the convention, the men arrived and found their banner p

Ruth R.
Ruth R6 years ago


Faith Purdy
Faith Purdy6 years ago

one of the worst things Bush managed to pass

tiffany t.
tiffany t6 years ago

Patriot Act needs to be abolished!

Luvenia V.
Luvenia V6 years ago

I am a conspiracy nut and PROUD of it. I am going to put this as plain as I can. We are where some have always wanted us to be but not quite where they would have us end up. When the rights of one are removed everyone’s rights are in danger.

Henry Alfred Kissinger
(B, CFR, TC)

“Today, Americans would be outraged if UN troops entered Los Angeles to restore order. Tomorrow, they will be grateful! This would especially be true if they were told that there were an outside threat from beyond, whether real or promulgated that threatened our very existence. Is is then that all people of the world will please to deliver them from this evil. The one thing man fears is the unknown. When presented with this scenario, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well-being granted to then by a World Government.”
Kissinger at the World Affairs Council Press Conference, Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel , April 19th 1994: “The New World Order cannot happen without U.S. participation, as we are the most significant single component. Yes, there will be a New World Order, and it will force the United States to change it’s perceptions.”

Deborah Vitek
Deborah Vitek6 years ago

The people of the U.S.should rise together and demand that the "patriot act" be rescinded. That would be the patriotic thing to do. The last time I was in the states I was on a ferry from Whidby Island to Seattle, WA. I was stunned. As an ex-pat living in Canada, on a west coast island I am very familiar with ferries, so I just could not believe the presence of dogs and old, pot-bellied male chauvinist "homeland security" officers in the ferry line-up and on the ferries. As my friend who was with me said, are we in communist Russia? People living in the U.S. really need to get their heads out of the sand and look around them and look at the rest of the world and see what a fascist state the U.S. has become.

The best thing everyone can do right now is support OWS,

Steven Brewer
Steven Brewer6 years ago

B. First Amendment (cont'd)
2. “Areas set aside in public places for political activists to exercise their right of free speech in the United States. "Free Speech Zones” intended to stifle dissent from government policies or actions shall be declared unlawful.
3. No one shall be arrested or put on “no-fly” lists for speaking out against the government, or for disagreeing with, or participating in protests against the President, Vice President, or elected representatives or their policies. “No-fly” lists shall be eliminated.
4. The federal and state governments and their agencies shall be forbidden from identifying, profiling, scanning with facial recognition software, listing in a database, detaining, or attacking any protestor for exercising the constitutional right to free speech and peaceful assembly.

“If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”
-James Madison

Steven Brewer
Steven Brewer6 years ago

The 1st Amendment guarantees the right to peacefully assemble and protest. Federal law should trump state and local law but the 1st Amendment has been judicially pre-empted by local caveats since the 40s. The Bush administration pushed those pre-emptions to the extremes when they set up "free speech zones" at their campaign rallies that were areas enclosed by chain link fences which were situated far enough from the candidates and media that they could be not seen or heard. Too many rights were taken away by the "Patriot Act" but sad to say the new administration seems to be in no hurry to reinstate those rights.
There are movements being set up to try to regain the rights lost over the past 11 years and one such one is the peoples Amendment movement at; whose Section IV calls for:

A. Denial of Constitutional Freedoms
1. Any constitutional right or freedom lost through legislation, Presidential order or other directive, shall immediately be restored.
2. A denial of constitutional rights or freedom shall be declared a felony. This includes denial of constitutional freedom stemming from an Executive Order of the President and actions of Congress, the Supreme Court, or officer of the law.
B. First Amendment
1. Freedom of speech and the right to peaceful assembly are constitutional rights and shall be guaranteed by law. No one shall be arrested, lose their job, or be sued for expressing a point of view

Nancy L.
Nancy L6 years ago

The govt. should mind their own business.