In the days and weeks immediately following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, some political leaders claimed that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures; in times of war, basic civil liberties and freedoms, such as privacy, need to be severely restricted for the sake of national security and safety. Perhaps as a nation, the value that we have traditionally attached to privacy has diminished significantly since then.
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Initially, the majority of American citizens strongly supported the Patriot Act, which passed by an overwhelming margin in both houses of Congress and was enacted into law on October 21, 2001. However, between 2001 and 2005 support for this act diminished considerably. Many privacy advocates believe that it goes too far and thus erodes basic civil liberties. Some critics also fear that certain provisions included in the act could easily be abused.
Examine some of the details of the Patriot Act and determine whether its measures are as extreme as its critics suggest. Are those measures consistent with the value of privacy, which Americans claim to embrace? Do privacy interests need to be reassessed, and possibly recalibrated, in light of ongoing threats from terrorists?