U.S. citizens' rights and freedom

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Terrorism has emerged as the most perilous global problem that the nations of the world are struggling to put into halt for greater safety and freedom of humanity. However, numerous studies and research sources have shown that anti-terrorism efforts are against human rights and freedom, but both the state and federal governments have ignored to develop pragmatic anti-terrorism techniques with less or no impacts on human rights and freedom.

After the September 11 terrorist attack, the U.S government has involved the legislative and executive branches to enact national security measures that would reduce the risk of terrorist attacks both at home and abroad. The American public generally supports the move to improve protection but the civil and human rights proponents have debated that the move might not be right. According the proponents the anti-terrorism efforts in the name of national security might limit human rights and freedom (Hastings, 2006).

Statement of the Problem

The research study aims at finding out whether the U.S efforts to fight against terrorism compromise the citizens and non-citizens rights and freedom.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to discover the effects of the anti-terrorism Act of 2001 also known as USA PATRIOT on immigrants' human rights and freedom. Statistics shows that immigrants were wrongfully detained.


The anti-terrorist response led to reduction of immigrants human rights through wrongful detention.

In the study the research questions on the immigrants would include

  • Were you detained after september11 attacks?
  • Do you think you think you were wrongfully detained?
  • What are the crimes you were detained for?
  • How long were you held in jai?
  • Did you have access to an attorney or lawyer?
  • Do you think the anti-terrorism Act would resolve terrorism?


The United States had no anti-terrorism strategy or policy that assessed the risk of terrorism prior and even after the September 11, 2001 attacks. There was no developed risk/threat assessment policy as every department and agency had developed their own approach. In the principles contained in the United States, citizens have civil rights and liberties that protect them from unwarranted interference either from other individuals or from the government. The Bill of Rights also identifies the role of the government to protect the citizens under the law despite of the religion, race, sex or other characteristics. The rights protects citizens from arbitrary detention or arrest, gives them a right to fair trial and freedom to movement, association, speech and lawful assembly.

Human rights expresses the basic standards that help human beings live with dignity. The human rights are articulated in various sections of U.S constitution and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). In times of crisis, the United States government has denied certain population their rights and freedoms. For example, After the French Revolution in a conflict between England and France, U.S role in the conflict concerning Alien and Sedition Act were controversial. During this time, the legal resident aliens were deported extra-judicially if considered a security threat.

Other time when human rights and freedom was denied was during Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus that ensured that people were not unlawfully arrested and imprisoned. The habeas corpus was denied without approval from congress and seditious newspapers closed. President Woodrow urged the congress to adopt some acts such as Espionage Act during World War I. This act made over 1000 people who spoke out against the war and military draft to be sent to jail by his administration. Rose Stokes and Eugene Debs, socialist at that time were imprisoned more than 10 years (Godson & Williams, 2002). After World War I, due to the rising fear that the 1917 Russian Bolshevik Revolution might have inspired radicals, the attacks on dissidents intensified. The 1918-1921'Palmer Raids', caused seizure to six thousand people in U.S most of then aliens who were considered to have fewer rights than citizens.

Another controversy happened during World War II when more than 120,000 people of Japanese descent were detained under instruction from President Franklin Roosevelt .More than two thirds of those detained were U.S citizens. The "Smith Act" also known as the Alien Registration Act of 1940 made advocacy of federal crime ideas after the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts. The Act was used to imprison people believed to be Communist Party leaders during the Cold War era. In 1940's and early 1950's, this Act led to attacks on writers, civil servants, artists and journalists in Hollywood and other places because of their supposed activities in the Communist Party. The attacks made by Senator Joe McCarthy found these professionals blacklisted and could not find work after that.

Civil rights activists and anti-war activists were subjected to considerable surveillance during the Vietnam War. Some secret 'dirty tricks' were also conducted on them under the FBI domestic counter intelligence programs. The previous excessive curtailments of rights of critics of wartime during the recent decades have been largely repudiated.

Literature Review

Due to the increased threat of terrorism from inside and outside United States's actors, the congress have enacted an Act known as USA PATRIOT Act. The USA PATRIOT is initials for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism". This Act was established on October 24, 2001 termed as the "Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001".The Act has been numerously criticized by civil liberties advocates because of its provisions and lack of adequate debate before it was adopted.

The critics argue that the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, are weaker due to numerous provisions of the Act. The USA PATRIOT Act creates new provision in the issues of terrorism. One of the new issues adopted is the loosely defined crime of 'domestic terrorism'. The Act breaks down the distinction between domestic criminal investigations and foreign intelligence. The distinction was aimed at protecting citizen's private lives from being intruded by the government. The Act allows the government to use wiretapping of telephones and secret searches on U.S citizens and non-citizens during investigations only for gathering intelligence for a criminal investigation purpose. The investigation officers do not have to establish the probable cause of the crime occurrence.

According to the civil liberties advocates, additional investigative methods are not necessary in addressing the extraordinary threats of terrorism (Russell, 2004).The advocates are concerned with the long-term and broader implications that the reduction of legal rights in the name of responding to terrorism acts would cause. The new Act of USA PATRIOT defines domestic terrorism broadly, which raises concern that on top of being used on suspected foreign tourists, the law would be used on innocent citizens. The innocent citizens include the people engaged in World Trade Organization, civil disobedience and other international financial institutions. The advocates accuse the government using the fight against international terrorism as a way of normalizing greater powers of intelligence gathering, surveillance and arrest.

It is therefore of major concern that the fight against terrorism lead to reduced rights particularly to immigrants. After September 11, 2001, government authorities detained immigrants for six months periods repeatedly that went against the rights for unlawful detention. Although the attacks have heightened valuable democratic principles awareness, it has also shifted the balance between security and civil rights, risking some values that are core. The U.S government should adopt an international response to terrorism that is effective and does not compromise on basic human rights in the end.


The research study aims at finding out whether the U.S efforts to fight against terrorism compromise the citizens and non-citizens rights and freedom. The research questions include whether the anti-terrorism Act of 2001 also known as USA PATRIOT affected the immigrants human rights through unlawful detention. The research questions the study wishes to use include

  1. Were you detained after september11 attacks?
  2. Do you think you think you were wrongfully detained?
  3. What are the crimes you were detained for?
  4. How long were you held in jai?
  5. Did you have access to an attorney or lawyer?
  6. Do you think the anti-terrorism Act would resolve terrorism?

A research study was conducted on around 5000 immigrants after the September 11 terrorists attack. The study was conducted on men immigrants from Middle East who had moved to U.S after January 1, 2001 between the ages of 18-33 years. All the 5000 immigrants were interviewed by the officials of Justice Department based on national origin and not on basis of religion and ethnicity. The study was aimed at finding out the number of people who were detained and held in jails without any charges or access to an attorney. The study aimed at finding out the reasons why they were detained and the alleged crimes.

The research used stratified sampling with the men stratified to those who were detained and the ones who were not. The Arab men who were detained were interviewed one by one-using questionnaires and face-to-face interviews. The Justice Department officials conducted the face-to-face interview. The questionnaire increased confidentiality since no name was required and each respondent had the right to express him or herself without fear.


The research study assumed that all the respondents would give true and correct information. The research study also assumed that the research would not be regarded as racial profiling because they only regarded Arab men from Middle East but as an exercise based on national interest but not on religion or ethnicity.


After the analysis of the statistics, it was found out that around 1200 Muslim or Arab men were detained after the September 11, 2001 terrorists' attacks. The number of those held without any charge was 750 out of the ones detained. The number of the ones who had no access to an attorney was only a handful.

The respondent detained and charged with terrorist related crimes were8.The ones who were charged with minor violations such as having expired Visas and overstaying were almost 350.


The U.S constitution is the supreme law that should be used as a benchmark of policy implementation especially in protecting the human rights and freedom of its citizens, but several issues have been raised that criticizes it. One of the debates arising from the U.S constitution is the introduction of the anti-terrorism Act of 2001.The Act known as Civil rights advocates have criticized USA PATRIOT because it denies human rights to the minority groups and immigrants. This occurred mostly after the September 11, 2001 attacks that saw unlawful detention of immigrants on accusations that they were security threats. The Arab and Muslim men from the Middle East were mostly affected because it was believed that the terrorists were of that race and religion. Some of the acts that the government officials subjected the immigrants to were detention without making prompt charges to the suspects, investing criminal activity using immigration detention, denying the suspects bail and access to a lawyer, verbal and physical abuse among other restrictive conditions of detention.

From the research study findings, the U.S government should adopt an international response to terrorism that is effective and does not compromise on basic human rights in the end


  • Godson, R., & Williams, P. (2002). Anticipating Organized and Transnational Crime. Crime, Law and Social Change, Criminal Justice Periodicals, vol. 37, 311-45
  • Hastings, R. (2006). Crime prevention and youth at risk: the problem of resistance to change. Retrieved March 18, 2010, from
  • Http// www.crime-prevention-intl.org/publications/pub_152_1.pdf
  • Russell, R. (2004). Intelligence Failures: The Wrong Model for the War on Terror. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press