Date of Award

January 2004

Degree Type

Restricted Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies

First Advisor

Thomas Barker

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Second Advisor

Kathryn E. Scarborough

Department Affiliation

Safety, Security, and Emergency Management

Third Advisor

Gary W. Potter

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies


Laws are often enacted in response to a moral panic. Examples of this are found in the Mann Act of 1910, passed to deal with forced prostitution, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act of 1970, which addressed the threat of organized crime. In 2001, the USA PATRIOT Act was passed in response to the worst terrorist attack in history. The similarity of the PATRIOT Act with the Mann and RICO Acts according to specific characteristics is identified in a historical context. The Mann and RICO Acts were ultimately used for unintended purposes. The common traits between these three laws lead to the belief that the PATRIOT Act is likely to follow a similar path and be used for unintended purposes.

A qualitative content analysis of twenty-five District Court cases was conducted. The purpose of the analysis was to determine the proportion of cases dealing with the PATRIOT Act that address terrorism compared to those that do not directly deal with terrorism. Of the twenty-five cases analyzed, ten were classified as "Related to Terrorism" and fifteen were classified as "Not Related to Terrorism". Most of the cases related to terrorism dealt with individuals or groups that were thought to have some ties to terrorist organizations through material support, blatant acts, or association with such a group. The cases classified as not relating to terrorism involved the PATRIOT Act in a variety of different ways.