1. First, have students use the websites listed below to example the history and elements of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, including:
- What does the acronym “U.S.A. Patriot Act” stand for?
- What is its purpose?
- What are its major provisions?
- What have been some controversial uses of the Act?
- What Section of the Act has been severely criticized by the American Library Association and other interested parties? On what basis have they criticized it?
2. Then, have students read the article, “The Patriot Act: What is the Proper Balance Between National Security and Individual Rights?”
3. Next, ask students to research the first lawsuit against the Patriot Act, and the status of that lawsuit, and answer the following questions:
- What is the basis of the lawsuit?
- Why is it the ACLU bringing the suit rather than some other organization?
- Where does the suit stand today?
4. Divide the class into four groups and assign each group the reading of three “pro” or three “con” views of the Patriot Act found near the end of the Wikipedia discussion of the Patriot Act:
Supportive Views (Pro)
The Patriot Act and Related Provisions: The Heritage Foundation's Research
Patriot Hysteria - The "Zacarias Moussaoui Protection Act", article by Rich Lowry, National Review
In Defense of the Patriot Act by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Patriot Act 101 by Jon Thibault, FrontPage Magazine
The Patriot Act under Fire by law professors John Yoo and Eric Posner, December 23, 2003
The Patriot Act, Reauthorized, JURIST
Critical Views (Con)
PATRIOT Games: Terrorism Law and Executive Power, JURIST
American Library Association's Resolution on the PATRIOT Act
Jennifer Van Bergen, Repeal the Patriot Act A six-part series analysing the Act.
Electronic Frontier Foundation's detailed analysis of the Act, October 27, 2003
Statement Of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold On The Anti-Terrorism Bill, October 25, 2001
Analysis of the Patriot Act: PEN American Center
5. Ask each group to carefully note the arguments for and against the Act in all their readings, and decide whether any given argument falls into the “national security” or the “individual liberty” category.
6. When the research is complete, ask each group to present its findings, and then participate in a debate about the U.S.A. Patriot Act around the following questions:
- How does the Patriot Act define "domestic terrorism"?
- Do you think participants in public protests could ever be accused of "domestic terrorism" under this definition? Why or why not?
- The Justice Department has proposed that the government should be able to ask a court to revoke the citizenship of any American who provides "material support" to terrorists. Do you support the proposal? Why or why not?
- Do you believe that the Patriot Act goes too far on the side of “security” and, in fact, serves to threaten “individual liberty”? Why, or why not?
7. As a concluding activity, take a vote in the class about the future of the U.S.A. Patriot Act.
The USA Patriot Act
USA Patriot Act on Wikipedia
Libraries and the USA Patriot Act
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Legal Documents in the ACLU Library Case
Controversial Uses of the USA Patriot Act
ALA Patriot Act Articles, Issues, and History
This lesson was developed by Marian Maxfield, Kent State University, with some help from the Constitutional Rights Foundation's lesson on the Patriot Act.