Civil Liberties and the USA PATRIOT Act

For this assignment, you will write a paper presenting the strongest arguments possible for both sides of a debate regarding Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, examining various points including the free flow of speech.

Step 1

Write a 4- to 5-page debate paper that addresses the following:

You are serving an internship with a candidate running for Congress. She has asked you to help her prepare for a series of debates over central topics facing the nation today. In the first section of the debate paper, you will provide the most powerful argument possible in favor of one side of the debate, then you will do the same for the other side. Finally, you will write a critique of the side of the issue with which you disagree.

For this assignment, you will prepare a debate paper covering an important contemporary issue in American Federalism. In 2001, President George W. Bush signed into law the USA PATRIOT Act, commonly known as the Patriot Act. Title II, Section 215 of the Patriot Act (referred to as Sec. 215) allows the FBI to demand that libraries produce the borrowing records of patrons suspected of engaging or planning to engage in international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities. Moreover, the libraries that are asked to provide this information through a National Security Letter (NSL) are not allowed to tell the targeted patron, or even acknowledge that they have received an NSL.

Your candidate’s debates will take place before an audience of the general public, so be sure to include an explanation of why the USA PATRIOT Act was passed and how it sought to address governmental and individual concerns over personal safety in the United States. Audience members will want to know how and why the act was originally passed and how it affects them today.

Step 2

Research the topic.

Being able to apply information literacy skills to study politics is critical. Access the Internet to research and learn about Title II, Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, and about the law in general. Consider your sources carefully when you research, keeping the following points in mind:

·  Primary sources, such as government websites, will be more informative and less subjective than secondary sources.

·  Check the reference lists or sources of any secondary online source you find, such as a journal or newspaper article. Has the author provided solid background for the opinions he or she expresses?

·  Do not accept the opinions of any individual secondary source without question. Consider the site where you found the source. What is its primary purpose? Who is its intended audience?

Step 3

Write a paper in favor of current practices.

Demonstrate that you can apply an understanding of government processes to analyze contemporary politics. Begin by writing the first part of the paper that argues in favor of retaining Section 215 of the Patriot Act as law. Make a case for why this law is critical for the nation’s security.

·  Briefly explain the nature of the law at hand and the factors and processes that led to its passage.

·  Outline which institutional structures were involved with the passage of this law and how they interacted.

·  Examine the Patriot Act law in the context of the history of U.S. politics.

·  Address ways that government processes affect contemporary political issues such as the Patriot Act.

·  Explain how individuals can impact the political environment and discuss this issue in relation to the intended checks and balances in our governmental system.

Step 4

Write a paper against current practices.

Now, write a section of the paper that argues for revoking Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Make a case for why this law goes against American values like freedom and privacy.

·  Use examples from the history of U.S. politics to support your case, and focus on issues such as:

o  The free flow of ideas that allow a democracy to function

o  U.S. citizens’ right to privacy

·  Analyze the formal and informal processes that affect how public policy is made. Describe how these processes relate to this contemporary issue, focusing on how they could work together to revoke this law.

·  Explain how individuals can impact the political environment and discuss this issue in relation to the intended checks and balances in our governmental system.

Step 5

Write a critique.

Now that you have made a strong argument for each side, critique or challenge the argument with which you disagree. Address its strongest points, and explain why you disagree with that view.

Step 6

In summary, be sure your paper includes the following:

·  An argument for maintaining current practices

·  An argument for changing current practices

·  A critique of the side with which you disagree

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