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Law and Terrorism
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Law during times of War
Surveillance and Searches
Detention, Interrogations, and Torture
Law during times of War
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During times of war, when Americans feel vulnerable, there is often a push to pass laws
that allow the government to crack down of those who may pose a risk
9-11 The US passed the Patriot Act, at the urging of President Bush and with the
overwhelming support of Congress
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Allowed the government to
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Trace the money used to fund terrorist acts
Find and Detain terrorist who entered our country
Intercept communications among terrorist groups
Expanded the powers of the DOJ, FBI and CIA
Required these groups to share information
Track communications on the internet
Wiretap phone and computer communications
Access personal, educational, medical and financial information
Created the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate efforts
These expanded powers scared many. The believe it empowered the government to
infringe on citizen’s rights
Others believe it strikes a careful balance between the rights of citizens and the need of
the government to keep America secure
The government has taken away rights in past war times
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Abraham Lincoln - Habeas Corpus
Woodrow Wilson - Free Speech, Free Press
Franklin D. Roosevelt - Due Process, Fair Trial, Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Surveillance and Searches
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Patriot Act gives the government more power to conduct
surveillance against everyone
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Protect America Act (2007) further broadened government’s power
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FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) can authorize wiretaps without warrant (all in
secret)
Listen in on phone conversations, read e-mails, monitor financial transactions and faxes
Obtain phone records from telecomm companies
Critics believe these acts remove judicial oversight and leave
innocent people subject to invasions of their privacy
Detention, Interrogations,
and Torture
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Since 9-11, thousands of foreigners (mostly Arabs and Muslims) have been
called in for fingerprinting, photographing and special registration
Some have been interviewed or detained
 Government claims this is necessary to deter terrorism
 Critics say it is harassment
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Torture is illegal in the US and any confessions gotten this way cannot be used
in a court of law (also against the “Geneva Conventions”)
What exactly constitutes torture is argued.
 “aggressive questioning” or “enhanced interrogations” have been used to get information of
suspected terrorists
 Some criticize this as torture
 Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is the current target of critics
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Not on US soils, so US Navy claims US laws do not apply
Prisoners are “enemy combatants” rather than “Prisoners of War” (POW’s)
* held indefinately without an attorney or trial
Congress passed law that requires ruling on status of prisoners and trials to be held
Court challenge upheld that the prisoners did not have legal standing in US courts
President Obama has promised to close GitMo

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