Street Law: A Course in Practical Law

Chapter 17: Law and Terrorism

Chapter Overviews

Many new laws and policies have been created in response to terrorism in recent years. Law enforcement officials at the federal, state, and local levels have all become involved in the "war on terror." Civil liberties groups and others have challenged many of the laws, concerned that important American freedoms will be sacrificed in the name of national security. Others argue that these measures are necessary to ensure the safety of the country.

The Law in Times of War  After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush requested increased powers to fight the war on terrorism, many of which were granted in the USA Patriot Act of 2001. The act expanded the powers of certain law enforcement and intelligence agencies, such as the FBI and the CIA. Some people questioned whether these expanded powers interfered with the privacy rights of individuals suspected of terrorist connections or activity.

Surveillance and Searches  The USA Patriot Act gives the government broader powers to conduct airport searches of people and luggage, read Internet correspondence, monitor financial transactions, and listen to telephone communications any time a person is believed to be involved in terrorist activities.

Detention, Interrogations, and Torture  Following the attacks of September 11, many people suspected of terrorism have been detained—or held—in the custody of the United States government. These actions mainly affect non-citizens and have had a significant effect on the Muslim and Arab communities in the United States. Federal law prohibits torture, but there is substantial disagreement about where to draw the line between torture (illegal) and aggressive questioning (legal).

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