President Bush signed the USA Patriot Act on October 26, 2001 which allowed covert searches to be made to avoid alerting suspects in terrorism cases. The USA Patriot Act also made it easier to wiretap suspects in order to secretly monitor conversations and to track e-mails and seize stored voice mails.
What is the USA Patriot Act? The USA Patriot Act is an antiterrorism law allowing federal officials greater authority in tracking and intercepting communications
What does the USA Patriot Act stand for? The USA Patriot Act is an acronym that stands for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act"
What was the main goal of the USA Patriot Act? The main goal of the USA Patriot Act is to deter domestic and international terrorists.
When was the USA Patriot Act passed? The USA Patriot Act was passed on October 26, 2001 as the U.S. government's main legislative response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Facts about USA Patriot Act
The 9/11 terrorist attacks, on September 22, 2001, shocked the world as the Pentagon was attacked and the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center were reduced to rubble. The 2001 Terrorist Attacks resulted in the deaths of over 3000 people and were masterminded by the terrorist group Al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden.
Just seven days later bioterrorism rocked America with lethal Anthrax attacks when anonymous letters, laced with lethal anthrax spores, were mailed through the US Postal system.
As complex and comprehensive plans were developed to create the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. federal government made its main legislative response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 by passing the USA Patriot Act as part of the War on Terror.
The title of the 2001 USA Patriot Act is an acronym that stands for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act".
The main purpose of the USA Patriot Act was to strengthen national security by providing federal officials additional powers in tracking and intercepting communications, for the purposes of law enforcement and foreign intelligence gathering.
The Patriot Act was enacted to amend or eliminate outdated laws that hindered surveillance and intelligence-gathering activities by various government agencies.
The new Patriot law gave new powers to the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Security Agency and other federal agencies on domestic and international surveillance of electronic communications.
The USA Patriot law was designed deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world and to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools. The law also made provisions to prevent, detect and prosecute international money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
The magnitude of the USA Patriot Act is reflected in its hundreds of sections, under main title headings, that constitute the law:
The USA Patriot Act was passed nearly unanimously by the Senate 98-1, and 357-66 in the House, with the support of members from across the political spectrum.
Summary of Title I - Enhancing domestic security against terrorism: This section of the Patriot Act establishes a Counterterrorism Fund increasing funding for the Terrorist Screening Center which is administered by the FBI. It also declared that the rights of Arab and Muslim Americans must be preserved.
Summary of Title II - Enhanced Surveillance Procedures: Grants authority for to share criminal investigative information, wiretapping and to track electronic communications such as e-mails and stored voice mails when a matter of foreign intelligence or counterintelligence is involved. Allows pen registers and trap and trace devices by government agencies to gather foreign intelligence information. Section 213, the "sneak and peek" section, allows for the notification of search warrants to be delayed.
Summary of Title III: Anti-money-laundering to prevent terrorism: This section of the Patriot Act facilitates the prevention, detection and prosecution of international money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Summary of Title IV: Border security: Aims to prevent terrorism in the USA through immigration regulations.
Summary of Title V: Removing obstacles to investigating terrorism: Addresses the capture and prosecution of terrorists including the use of DNA identification and the disclosure of educational records and information from National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) surveys.
Summary of Title VI: Victims and families of victims of terrorism: This section of the Patriot Act amends the Victims of Crime Act of 1984. Following the events of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, it provides aid to the families of Public Safety Officers, such as firefighters, law enforcement officers, ambulance crew who are injured or killed in terrorist attacks
Summary of Title VII: Increased information sharing for critical infrastructure protection: Amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to increase the ability of U.S. law enforcement to counter terrorist activity that crosses jurisdictional boundaries
Summary of Title VIII: Terrorism criminal law: This section of the Patriot Act establishes or re-defines rules and penalties for terrorism offenses to prevent the harboring of or concealment of terrorists. The section covers Cyberterrorism and cybersecurity and attacks on mass transportation systems. It also provides definitions of Biological weapons, domestic terrorism and terrorist support.
Summary of Title IX: Improved intelligence: Ensures that information obtained from electronic surveillance or physical searches is shared for efficient and effective foreign intelligence purposes.
Summary of Title X: Miscellaneous: This section of the Patriot Act covers instances that do not fall under the above, specific titles of the USA Patriot Act. It authorizes the Attorney General to make grants to state and local governments “to improve the ability of state and local law enforcement, fire departments, and first responders to respond and prevent acts of terrorism.” It bans the admission of suspected money launders into the United States. The National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC) was established for critical infrastructure protection and continuity.
Several of the surveillance portions of the Patriot Act were "sunset" provisions, designed to expire if not periodically reauthorized by Congress. The "sunset" provisions were reauthorized on several occasions, in 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2011.
On May 26, 2011, President Barack Obama signed the PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011, which extended "sunset" provisions until June 1, 2015.
The Patriot Act is controversial because its encompasses issues of privacy and government surveillance and its effects on civil liberties.
Since the adoption of the Patriot Act, debate has raged over how expanded surveillance and intelligence-gathering powers conflict with civil liberties. Critics argue that it gives the government too much power and undermines democracy.
The USA Patriot Act is described by many critics as “unconstitutional” and go against the rights guaranteed in the first and fourth amendment.
The First Amendment states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances". Critics argue that the USA Patriot Act could be used for religious profiling and that religious freedoms might be impaired for security reasons.
The Fourth Amendment states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. Critics argue that their privacy is being invaded because the USA Patriot Act allows phones to be tapped and private records to be accessed and searches without warrants.
The Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013 proved that the provisions included in the Patriot Act are not foolproof and raised concerns law enforcement searches without warrants.
In June 2013 Edward Joseph "Ed" Snowden, an American computer systems administrator and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee leaked top secret information from the National Security Agency (NSA) to the mainstream media. The Snowden disclosures fueled debates over the Patriot Act, government secrecy, mass surveillance and the balance between national security and information privacy.
On June 2, 2015 the USA Freedom Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection and Online Monitoring Act) was signed into law by President Barack Obama, as an alternative to extending the sunset provisions within the USA Patriot Act itself.
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