Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

The USA Patriot Act and the Threat to Civil Liberties in the United States of America

Jim Cornehls.

This paper analyzes and discusses the USA Patriot Act and the reasons behind its passage. Its official title is The USA Patriot Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001). The Act was passed only 45 days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Its ostensible purpose was to provide law enforcement with new tools to fight terrorism. The Act passed with minimal debate, and almost no public discussion. As of July, 2003, 91% of registered voters in the U.S. did not understand that the Patriot Act endangers their own civil liberties.

The Act violates 6 of the original ten Bill of Rights, and the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It has been used to incarcerate hundreds of U.S. residents, without charges, sometimes for many months. It has been used by the FBI to secretly break and enter people’s homes, seize personal property, and not inform the residents for many months. It has eliminated the 4th Amendment’s guarantee of a showing of probable cause prior to the issuance of warrants in cases involving alleged “foreign intelligence.”

The Act, by stifling dissent, and instilling fear in those who protest its civil liberties violations, or read books and articles the government deems “dangerous,” effectively censors open communication and fosters an atmosphere of suspicion and secrecy. Two civil rights organizations have filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Act. More than 200 local governments, including the City of Chicago, and three states have passed resolutions condemning it.


Jim Cornehls  (United States)
Professor and Director, Law & Public Policy Graduate Certificate Program
School of Urban and Public Affairs
University of Texas - Arlington

Ph.D. Economics, J.D. Law. Thirty-eight years as university professor and researcher. Twenty years as a practicing attorney. Published several books and more than 40 articles and appellate briefs. Consultant to Federal, State and local governments. Economic expert witness in dozens of court cases.

  • USA Patriot Act
  • Civil liberties
  • Anti-terrorism

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)