Either defend or refute the Patriot Act as it now is written.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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If one were to refute the current form of the Patriot Act, I  think that part of this would have to be in clarifying language in the law as it is written. When the Patriot Act was extended in 2011, little in way of modifying language with regards to surveillance and gathering information within the United States was undertaken.  The need to establish protocol regarding probable cause for extended surveillance on United States citizens and civilians represents one area where the Patriot Act needs to be refuted.  Given the recent worries of Americans regarding warrantless surveillance, demanding more exacting language out of the Patriot Act regarding the use of unauthorized wiretaps could be one area in which the current vision of the Patriot Act could be refuted.

Another similar area of refutation regarding the current condition of the Patriot Act would reside in the use of FISA Courts. As it is currently written, FISA Courts are not subject to the same level of transparency and disclosure as other legal proceedings outlined in the Constitution.  I think that an area of refutation of the Patriot Act would be in developing language that ensures a greater need for transparency in FISA Courts in terms of the collection of evidence, disclosure of results, and that due process is followed.  The reform of the use of FISA Courts is of critical importance to Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, the original author of the Patriot Act:

The two other things are that we are proposing reform of the FISA Court, where we recognize there are things that have got to be classified. But if the FISA Court changes policy or attempts to reinterpret the law, we require the publication of that so it is not a secret decision when basically the FISA Court allows the NSA to shift gears. The other thing we do is create an office of public advocate to represent the public and privacy interests in particular — and also give the public advocate authority to appeal a decision of the FISA court the advocate feels does not comport with the law or comport with policies.

Sensenbrenner and others like him who support the Patriot Act believe that some clarification of language is needed in the wake of revelations that NSA surveillance of civilians.  It is interesting to note that the original author of the Patriot Act is calling for greater clarification of language within the law given the manner in which the law has been used by the last two administrations.

These questions are nothing new about the Patriot Act.  Few would deny the need to ensure that American safety and concerns of law enforcement are absolute.  The Patriot Act's relevance lies in how it helps law enforcement.  Yet, in refuting it, a case can be made that there needs to be some clarification in its language to ensure that American ideals of freedom and due process are not compromised in any way. Elected officials like Representative Sensenbrenner believe that our own security and commitment to the ideals of freedom are not mutually exclusive:  "I can say that if Congress knew what the NSA had in mind in the future immediately after 9/11, the Patriot Act never would have passed, and I never would have supported it. We have to have a balance of security and civil liberties."  It is in this light where the Patriot Act in its most current form can be refuted.

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