Terrorism and the U.S Citizens’ Rights and Freedom

Thesis Statement

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.


Terrorism has emerged as the most perilous global problem that the nations of the world are struggling to put to a 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 development of pragmatic anti-terrorism techniques with less or no impacts on human rights and freedom (Hastings, 2006).

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. According to 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 citizen’s 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 show that immigrants were wrongfully detained.


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

In the study, the research questions on the immigrants would include:

  • Were you detained after the september 11 attacks?
  • Do you think you think you were wrongfully detained?
  • What are the crimes you were detained for?
  • How long were you held in jail?
  • 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 before and even after the September 11, 2001 attacks. 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 religion, race, sex, or other characteristics. The rights protect citizens from arbitrary detention or arrest, give them a right to a fair trial and freedom to movement, association, speech, and lawful assembly.

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

U.S president Abraham Lincoln denied people human rights and freedom during Civil War when he suspended habeas corpus. Habeas corpus was a statute that ensured that people were not arrested unlawfully and imprisoned (Russell, 2004). The habeas corpus was denied without approval from congress and seditious newspapers closed. 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 the seizure of six thousand people in the U.S most of them 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” denied citizens their rights by introducing political interests during the Cold War era. The government mistreated the Communist Party leaders using the Act through imprisonment. Another aspect where the Act was used to mistreat people’s rights was when the writers, civil servants, artists, and journalists were attacked in Hollywood and other places in the 1940s and 1950s. The workers were attacked on suspicion that they supported the Communist Party and its activities. The attacks made by Senator Joe McCarthy found these professionals blacklisted and could not find work after that.

Another reason why civil rights advocates are worried is fear that the Civil rights activists and anti-war activists will be denied their freedom and subjected to considerable surveillance like was the case during the Vietnam War (Russell, 2004). Some secret ‘dirty tricks’ were also conducted on them under the FBI domestic counterintelligence programs.

Literature Review

Due to the increased threat of terrorism from inside and outside United States’s actors, congress has enacted an Act known as USA PATRIOT Act. The USA PATRIOT, which stands for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism”, is subject to controversy and debates from human rights activists. 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 of the Act argue that numerous provisions of the Act reduce the power of human rights as provided by the Bill of Rights. The USA PATRIOT Act creates new provisions 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 citizens’ private lives from being intruded on by the government. The Act allows the government to use tactics that would threaten human freedom such as wiretapping of telephones and secret searches on U.S citizens and non-citizens (Godson & Williams, 2002). The government official that the secret investigation was only helpful for gathering intelligence information for a criminal investigation purpose. The investigation officers do not have to establish the probable cause of the crime occurrence.

According to civil liberties advocates, additional investigative methods are not necessary for addressing the extraordinary threats of terrorism (Russell, 2004). The civil rights advocates are concerned that the reduction of legal rights in the name of responding to terrorism acts would have long-term and broader implications than the solution. 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 that instead of using the anti-terrorism Act for the safety of citizens throughout the world, they are using it as a way of normalizing greater powers of intelligence gathering, surveillance, and arrest.

It is therefore of major concern that the fight against terrorism leads 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. As a solution, the civil rights activists and advocates recommend that the U.S government should find a better way to solve terrorism in such a way that the previous human rights violations that occur during the war do not recur in the future. The response adopted should not compromise on basic human rights of the citizens and non-citizens of united States like what happened after September 11, attacks.


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 it only regarded Arab men from Middle East. The research assumed that the activity was taken as an exercise based on national interest but not on religion or ethnicity. Another assumption made was that the respondents were not under any duress to give information but that they gave their opinion voluntarily. The study assumed that the statistical method used for sampling, that is, the computer software gave the correct figures. It was also assumed that both the respondents and interviewers did not put any personal interests or political considerations when conducting the research study.


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 (Russell, 2004). 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.

Below is a chart that represents the research statistics results:

statistics results


The research involved only the wrongful detention of immigrants after terrorists’ attacks. Although a big sample was used to ensure figures that are more accurate, using a population from the same background was biased. In future, the research should include a random sample of people from all tribes. The research should show that , immigrants rights were not the only one affected by the September 11 2001 attacks. The research study was conducted by the Department of Justice in United States. These would give errors since the Muslim and Arab men would feel humiliated being interviewed by the same people who arrested them. A good research study would have included an independent body to do the study.


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.

As a solutions the civil rights activists and advocates recommend that, the U.S government should find a better way to solve terrorism in such a way that the previous human rights violations that occur during war do no recur in the future. The response adopted should not compromise on basic human rights of the citizens and non-citizens of united States like what happened after September 11, attacks.


Godson, R., and 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. Web.

Russell, R. (2004). Intelligence Failures: The Wrong Model for the War on Terror. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press