Trust Us: The PATRIOT Act Saves Lives

Former FBI Section Chief for Financial Crime Dennis Lormel defends the USA PATRIOT Act thusly:

As a former senior executive of the FBI, responsible for terrorist financing, the investigative initiatives I oversaw were direct beneficiaries of the USA PATRIOT Act. Make no mistake about it; the PATRIOT Act facilitates investigative success. The ultimate beneficiaries of such success are the American people. Why is it that certain members of the House and Senate choose to overlook this basic fact? After all, isn̢۪t ensuring our safety and security a paramount responsibility of our elected officials? It̢۪s disheartening that select legislators continuously cast skepticism toward the integrity of the FBI, CIA and other agencies in respecting our civil liberties in deference to the desire of terrorists, who seek to exploit our very freedom by attempting to conduct heinous acts of terrorism against us.

While I’m generally supportive of the PATRIOT Act and think it among the least intrusive of the post-9/11 measures in terms of our civil liberties, it would be helpful if Lormel would shed more light on what successes, exactly, stemmed from the act to judge whether the tradeoffs here are worthwhile and whether some provisions are more important than others.

Moreover, charging that congressmen who are concerned about civil liberties are “defer[ing] to the desire of terrorists” is an outrageous poisoning of the well. And the idea that the FBI and CIA do not merit the slightest bit of “skepticism” with regard to their concern for the civil liberties of Americans is absurd. All people and organizations who are dedicated to the pursuit of a goal have a natural tendency to push the envelope in their quest to achieve it. Surely, this is doubly true for a goal so important as safeguarding the country from terrorists.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Seems to me that government officials, whether they be elected or appointed, who support the “Patriot” Act without question, are actually helping the terrorists achieve their objectives.

    The terrorists want to destroy our free society, to take away our liberties, to be able to have secret police make secret arrests and hold polticial enemies incommunicado.

    The “Patriot” Act provides just the kind of legal structure that the terrorists need to impose their way of life upon us.

    I can understand why pro-authoritarian big-government supporters on the left would go along with that, but I do not understand why people who normally advocate limited government and claim to want strict construction of the Constitution now seem to support the developing structure for a secret and oppresive government that feels free to ignore the individual liberties once guaranteed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

  2. anjin-san says:


    Trash the left if it makes you feel better, but in fact, it is the GOP under Bush that has undermined civil liberties in America.