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Security, Liberty, and the USA PATRIOT Act LLPH

90 min
  • Students will be able to identify the purposes and limitations of government in the American Founding by interpreting founding and contemporary documents.
  • Students will determine if the Founding principles were consistent with the U.S. government’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Students should have access to internet-connected devices so they may explore the documents provided in the handouts as well as the full-text versions, as necessary.

This lesson should be presented after the historical events of 9/11 and the U.S. response have been taught. This lesson is designed to interpret the larger constitutional questions posed by that response.

  1. Students will read a selection of documents from the American Founding in Handout A and answer the analysis questions that accompany the readings.
  2. Students will interpret what the nature of powers were that the Founders intended to give the federal government in matters of national security.

Students will examine some readings from after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in Handout B.

  • Students will interpret how the USA PATRIOT Act defined the U.S. national security strategy against terrorist organizations hostile to the United States
Students will read the document provided in Handout C.

  • Students will highlight the key criticisms made by the ACLU of the USA PATRIOT Act’s constitutionality in Handout C.

Students will reflect on the arguments made by the ACLU in Handout C, while also considering what was read in Handouts A and B. Each student will then decide whether they agree with ACLU’s assertions. Then they will produce a product that expresses their conclusions. They must cite evidence from at least four of the provided documents in supporting their position. The choices of products may include:

  1. an editorial in the New York Times
  2. a draft bill of a law that would clear up any inconsistencies in the law
  3. a letter to a member of Congress urging them to support or repeal the USA PATRIOT Act
  4. a political comic strip that makes the case for the necessity of the act or exposes its unconstitutionality