Controversial invocations
about the Patriot Act

The USA PATRIOT Act has generated a great deal of controversy since its enactment[1]. Opponents of the Act have been quite vocal in asserting[2] that it was passed opportunistically after the September 11 terrorist attacks, believing there to have been little debate. They view the Act as one that was hurried[3] through the Senate with little change before it was passed.

The sheer[4] magnitude of the Act itself was noted by progressive activist Michael Moore in his controversial film Fahrenheit 9/11. In one of the scenes of the movie, he records Congressman Jim McDermott alleging that no Senator read the bill and John Conyers, Jr. as saying "We don't really read most of the bills. Do you know what that would entail if we read every bill that we passed?" Congressman Conyers then answers his own rhetorical question, asserting that if they did it would "slow down the legislative process". As a dramatic device, Moore then hired an ice-cream van and drove around Washington, D.C. with a loud speaker, reading out the Act to puzzled[5] passers-by, which included a few Senators. However, Moore was not the only commentator to notice that not many people had read the Act. Dahlia Lithwick and Julia Turne for Slate asked "How bad is Patriot, anyway?". They decided that it was "Hard to tell"[6], and that "The ACLU, in a new fact sheet challenging the DOJ[7] Web site, wants you to believe that the act threatens[8] our most basic civil liberties. Ashcroft and his roadies call the changes in law "modest and incremental[9]." Since almost nobody has read the legislation, much of what we think we know about it comes third-hand and spun[10]. Both advocates and opponents are guilty of fear-mongering[11] and distortion in some instances."

EPIC[12] have criticized the law as unconstitutional, especially when "the private communications of law-abiding American citizens might be intercepted incidentally", while the EFF[13] hold that the lower standard applied to wiretaps[14] "gives the FBI a 'blank check' to violate the communications privacy of countless innocent Americans". Others do not find the roving wiretap[15] legislation to be as concerning.

[1] Enactment : remise en vigueur
[2] To assert : revendiquer
[3] To hurry : dépecher
[4] Sheer : legère
[5] Puzzled : etonné
[6] Hard to tell : difficile à dire
[7] DOJ : Departement of Justice
[8] To threaten : menacer
[9] Modest and incremental : minime et diffuse
[10] It comes third hand and spun : cela vient d’une tierce personne, et déjà modifié
[11] Faer mongering : bouc-émissaire
[12] EPIC : Electronic Privacy Information Centre
[13] EFF : Electronic Frontier Fondation
[14] Wiretaps : mise sur écoute
[15] A roving wiretap : un micro mobile