The threat of terror attacks is one of the major problems the US is currently facing and the country attempts to increase its security on both national and international level. The terror attacks on September 11, 2001, provoked the introduction of unparalleled measures in the domestic security policy and initiated military operations of the US troops abroad. At the same time, the dramatic changes and disastrous effects of September 11 also revealed the existing gaps in American legislation in relation to the national security. At any rate, the success of the terror attack proved the fact that the US cannot be protected and its policy should be changed. In order to increase the national security the US authorities naturally needed to implement changes on the legislative level to provide law enforcement agencies with larger opportunities to prevent terror attacks and any kind of terror activity in the US.
This is why the Patriot Act was introduced on October 26, 2001 (Cole and Dampsey, 2002, p,79). Initially, the Act was supposed to increase the national security and guarantee American citizens safety from any further terror attacks, but, on the other hand, law enforcement measures legalized by this Act provoked a strong opposition from the part of civil rights organizations that argued that the Act limits basic Constitutional rights and liberties substantially.
In such a situation, it is necessary to analyze both positions pro and contra the Patriot Act in order to reveal its actual effect on the life of American people and on American democracy at large. First of all, it should be said that the Patriot Act was introduced as a countermeasure against the spread of terrorism in the US. The major outcome of the Act was the improvement of the position of law enforcement agencies and enlargement of their rights. In this regard, it is possible to speak about certain advantages of the Patriot Act. Basically, the strengthening of the law enforcement agencies naturally contributed to the improvement of the general situation in the US. At any rate, law enforcement agencies got the legislative support and rights to use the power more effectively. To put it more precisely, the law enforcement agencies got the right to search e-mail, telephone communications, medical, financial and other records (Wong, 2007, p.176). In such a way, law enforcement agencies got an opportunity to increase their control over the situation in the country that was naturally very important after terror attacks on September 11 because it could prevent new terror attacks if they were planned by terrorist organizations.
At the same time, it is possible to speak about another positive effect of the Act which is closely interlinked with the enlargement of rights of law enforcement agencies. What is meant here is the general situation in American society and psychological state of ordinary Americans. After the terror attacks the overwhelming majority of Americans felt insecure and they could not rely on the police, the FBI or any other law enforcement agencies because they had failed to prevent terror attacks on September 11. In such a situation, the enlargement of their rights were positively accepted by many Americans and contributed to the stabilization of their psychological state because this Act demonstrated that after its introduction law enforcement agencies would have larger opportunities to prevent terror attacks and, therefore, they would be able to protect ordinary citizens of the US from any terrorist threat.
In actuality, the Patriot Act really contributed consistently to the decline of the terrorist threat because this act increased the control over the situation not only within the US, but it also provided ample opportunities to control the arrival of foreigners and immigrants in the US. It is worthy of mention the fact that law enforcement agencies got the right to indefinite detention of immigrants, while the Tresury got the authority to regulate financial transactions of foreigners. In such a way, terrorist would be more likely to be uncovered if they attempted to finance some terror attack in the US or arrive into the country to the realization of their plans.
On the other hand, practically all these measures that could be assessed positively had its negative side, a kind of side-effect. For instance, the enlargement of rights of law enforcement agencies to search for e-mail, telephone communication, medical and financial records, etc. was criticized as a serious threat limiting the Constitutional rights and liberties of American people (Michaels, 2002, p.331) because law enforcement agencies did not even need a consent of the person whose e-mail or telephone communication is searched or the rule of a court. Obviously, the threat of the misuse of power by the law enforcement agencies could outweigh the positive impact of such measures on the psychological state of American society.
Furthermore, the possibility of the indefinite detention of immigrants was the direct violation of the basic human and civil rights because, in actuality, this measure provided law enforcement agencies with an opportunity to detain any immigrant at any pretext and detain him/her as long as they want and they could even deport this person from the US.
Another, presumably effective measure, the regulation of financial transactions was a serious threat to the normal functioning of the US economy because such a measure was practically unacceptable for a country with the open market economy. As the matter, it put under a threat the investments of foreigners and their capitals in the US. As a result, it would be quite natural that foreigners redirect their capitals from the US markets into more reliable and secure markets such as that of the EU.
Thus, in conclusion, it should be said that the introduction of the Patriot Act had both positive and negative effects, because, on the one hand, the Act really contributed to the increasing security through the enlargement of rights of law enforcement agencies, while, on the other hand, such enforcement threatened to Constitutional rights and liberties of American people and put under a threat personal security of foreigners and immigrants as well as the security of their capitals in the US.