Habeas Corpus and the War on Terror

Category: Politics


Humankind development is directly connected with technologies. Humans have relied on technologies for centuries to gain the dominating place on Earth. All technological advances were achieved to assure survival and secureness of the species at the early stages of humankind development. Later, people learned to develop technologies aimed to make life easier and more comfortable. Industrial revolution then and information technologies today revolutionized the day-to-day life of most people on the planet.

However, technologies application always has two sides - good and bad in terms of their application (Napal, 2011). Therefore, creation of new technologies tends to lead to the development of new acts that can protect people from the "bad" application of technologies. The development of information technology (in general) has created certain ethical issues and initiated development of the appropriate legislative protection acts.

This paper is aimed to explore USA PATRIOT Act, 2001 (renewed 2006) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) in order to answer the following question: What were the advances in information technology that resulted in new ethical issues necessitating the creation of each act? The paper explores the advances in information technology for the last decades and determines ethical issues related to these advances. The appropriate conclusions are provided in the Conclusion section.

USA PATRIOT Act, 2001 (renewed 2006)

The USA PATRIOT Act (also known as "Patriot Act") was signed by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001, as the response to the events of September 11, the day terrorist attacked America. The title stands for Uniting, Strengthening, America, Providing, Appropriate, Tools, Required, Intercept, Obstruct, Terrorism, Act of 2001 (IT.OJP.gov, 2010). The purpose of the act was to reduce restrictions on law enforcement agencies capabilities to perform various operations related to information technologies (listening to telephone lines, searching e-mail communications, having access to medical, financial, and other kinds of records). In addition, gathering of foreign intelligence was eased within the U.S; financial transactions involving foreigners became easier to regulate for the Secretary of the Treasury; and law enforcement agencies got more right to detain and deport immigrants, suspected in acts related to terrorism (IT.OJP.gov, 2010).

What has led to such situation? September 11 showed how easily the interested parties could communicate and coordinate their actions while planning terrorist attacks, using information technologies, such as e-mail, the Internet, mobile phones, etc. (Napal, 2011) On one hand, these technologies provided people with numerous opportunities to communicate with each other. Privacy (including anonymity) is one of the major advantages of the Internet and electronic means of communication. On the other, it is utterly hard to trace the parties involved into criminal and terrorist activities and control the overall situation regarding this matter. An ethical issue emerges - to what extent can law enforcement authorities legally intrude in private life? The act determined this extent rather clearly, and it was a necessary step to take to prevent further escalation of the terrorist-related issues (IT.OJP.gov, 2010).

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)

The development of information technologies has created great opportunities for data interexchange, transferring it into electronic field. Therefore, electronic data interexchange (EDI) became standard de facto for the modern world. According to Privacy.med.miami.edu (2005), "HIPAA is the federal law that establishes standards for the privacy and security of health information, as well as standards for electronic data interchange (EDI) of health information." It was adopted in 1996, as the regulation act for this area.

The main goals of HIPAA are to make health insurance more portable in case a person changes an employer, and to make the health care system less expensive reducing wastes and fraud, for example. The core of HIPAA is the standardization. Thus, the following rules and standards are to be implemented: formats for electronic information exchanges (computer-to-computer); "identifiers" for providers of health care services, health plans, and patients; security standards for information systems; and, of course, privacy standards (CMS.gov, 2011; Privacy.med.miami.edu, 2005).

Health is one of the vital things to care about for any human being. Medical records of patients are very private, and thus, valuable for a variety of reasons. That is why this data cannot be in possession of the unauthorized third parties. Before the information technologies era, it was not that easy to get access to medical records of the patients - information was stored on the paper carriers and physically secured (Napal, 2011). Transfer of this data on demand somewhere was a rather long and effort taking process. Today, when medical records are in electronic form (one of the greatest achievements of IT), data exchange can be performed with a blink of an eye (Napal, 2011).

However, the secureness of such data became very poor. Ethical issue related to the privacy of data had emerged. The need in legislative acts, regulations, and policies regarding this problem became crucial. HIPAA was the appropriate answer to the upcoming issues with health care industry and EDI (Privacy.med.miami.edu, 2005). Therefore, IT facilitated medical data exchange and created new substantial issues of ethical nature.


To sum up the paper, the following can be concluded: information technologies are among the greatest achievements of the humanity; advances in this area facilitated communication, improved privacy, and EDI; however, it has created certain ethical issues related to the right of an individual for privacy of personal data and medical records; the issues were considered and covered by the appropriate acts.

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