Congress renews Patriot Act

On March 9, the USA Patriot Act was renewed. The act was originally passed after Sept. 11 because of the terrorist attacks. The act largely expands law enforcement authority for fighting terror inside and outside of the U.S. The act also is used for detecting and punishing potential crimes, such as giving false information about terrorism. The Patriot Act was renewed with an 89 to 11 vote in Senate on March 2, and a 280 to 138 vote on March 7 in the House of Representatives. The issue came about as 16 of the bill’s provisions were set to expire on March 10. The renewal made 14 of the provisions in the act permanent, and extended two of the other provisions for another four years. The renewal became official on March 9. According to Bush, the law is vital in protecting Americans from terrorists because it detects and disrupts terrorist plots, which in turn helps to fight the “war on terror.” However, many have become angered by the law. Among the main purposes of the Patriot Act are more power to trace terrorist communication, and tougher immigration laws. It has been a controversial issue in the past, as critics find the strong sense of nationalism in the Patriot Act to be troubling. Still, there are others who think the act didn’t go far enough. According to Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, renewal of the act marks a missed opportunity to protect the national security needs of the U.S., and the rights and freedoms of its citizens. “Without freedom, we are not America. If we don’t preserve our liberties, we cannot win this war, no matter how many terrorists we capture or kill,” he said. The renewal of the Patriot Act prolongs provisions of the original act like restrictions on the sale of over-the-counter medicine, strengthening port security, and giving federal officials the right to get business records from bookstores and other items to help with terror investigations. Supporters agreed that the renewal is an improvement from the original, although many who voted for the renewal agreed the act fell short of protecting all civil liberties. Many Ames High students were upset by the renewal of the Patriot Act. “I think it’s a bunch of bo’shit,” sophomore Bobby Hunter said. “All the vague necessity for the act there might have been after Sept. 11 is gone. There is no real reason to obstruct civil liberties, especially now.” Senior Matt Grotheer agreed. “I hate [the Patriot Act] because it abridges civil liberties and doesn’t actually help anyone,” he said. “They should really have tried to read the bill before they passed it.”