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First signed into law by President George W. Bush just over a month after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the USA PATRIOT Act has been problematic from the beginning. Detractors say it threatens the most basic tenants of American civil liberties by intruding on the privacy of millions of Americans who have done nothing wrong. Defenders call it a necessary tool to fight terrorism in the 21st century. In 2011, President Barack Obama signed a four-year extension on several key aspects of the law which had been set to expire. And now, Congress has once again taken up this fight.
“With only days left to act and [Kentucky Sen. and Republican presidential candidate] Rand Paul threatening a filibuster, Senate Republicans remain deeply divided over the future of the PATRIOT Act and have no clear path to keep key government spying authorities from expiring at the end of the month,” reported Seung Min Kim and Kate Tummarello of Politico on Thursday. “Crucial parts of the PATRIOT Act, including a provision authorizing the government’s controversial bulk collection of American phone records, first revealed by Edward Snowden, are due to lapse May 31. That means Congress has barely a week to figure out a fix before lawmakers leave town for Memorial Day recess at the end of the next week.”
So, we wanted to know: "Should the PATRIOT Act be re-authorized? Why or why not?"
“No, it gives government too much power. The result is unchecked government power to rifle through individuals' financial records, medical histories, Internet usage, bookstore purchases, library usage, travel patterns or any other activity that leaves a record.” — Donald E. Aaron
“The NSA allegedly already does these whether there is a PATRIOT Act or not.” — Nathan Dunn
“Yeah, it was a good movie.” — Jason Grammer
“No. Ideally, strong protection against terrorism would be a great feat for America. However, with such controversy over how much control the government has over civilian lives, the law will no doubt inflict fear and undermine the overall goal of keeping Americans safe.” — Autumn Ricketts
“Re-authorizing the act as it was laid out in 2001 is a really bad idea. The PATRIOT Act was so hastily put together in response to the Sept. 11 attacks, and was so broad as a result of the haste, that it hurt law-abiding Americans more than it protected them. It created far more mistrust by invading privacy than it did a feeling of being safer within our borders. Measures should be taken to protect our country from terrorist attacks, but if it’s going to be the PATRIOT Act, or even PATRIOT Act-esque, then the privacy of citizens certainly needs to be taken into consideration. How that is to be done is for people far more intelligent than I am to figure out.” — Jessicah Powers
“Absolutely not. It should have never been passed in the first place. It was conceived by those who saw in smoldering rubble of Sept. 11 an opportunity to shred the Fourth Amendment. It wasn’t even supposed to be permanent, and was scheduled to sunset Dec. 31, 2005 before it was re-authorized by President Bush. And knowing what we know now — thanks to American hero Edward Snowden — there’s no way we can continue with this program. Even the congressman who first introduced the law, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., R-Wisconsin, has called for its end, saying the metadata collection is ‘illegal and based on a blatant misinterpretation of the law.’” — Rob Burgess