The Patriot Act

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Mission Statement

Our mission statement is to inform the American society about the positive and negative aspects of the Patriot Act. This will help decipher whether or not governmental procedures affect personal privacy.


President Bush signed The Patriot Act, and it was passed on October 26, 2001; 45 days after the September 11 terrorists’ attacks on the World Trade Centers. The USA Patriot Act or just the Patriot Act is “Uniting and strengthening America by providing appropriate tools required to intercept and obstruct Terrorism.” The Patriot Act gives the Government more of an authority of U.S. law enforcement. This act also expanded the definition of terrorism. It now includes “domestic terrorism.” The power of this act is able to have the government/ FBI, and like agencies to search telephone, e-mail, financial, medical and other such records without a court order. This act also allows searches of personal property to be conducted without you ever knowing. Even though that the act has flaws, such as freedoms being taken away, it is to make the U.S. a safer place. There have been many concerns with the Patriot Act, as to if the law will misuse the rights given with this act. We will be going over the history, the security limits and measures as well as all of the controversy of the Patriot Act.


Acts and Events leading up to the Patriot Act

September 11, 2001

  • On September 11, 2001 19 terrorists affiliated with the group as the al-Qaeda hijacked four jet airlines. Two planes were intentionally crashed into the World Trade Centers, located in New York, NY. These planes were American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175. Both towers collapsed following the attacks.
  • The third plane, American Airlines Flight 77 was flown into the United States Pentagon located in Arlington County, Virginia.
  • Passengers and crew of the fourth hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight 93 attempted to retake control of the aircraft. The plane crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Combating Terrorism Act of 2001

  • United States republican senators Orrin Hatch and Jon Kyl and democratic senators Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer proposed the Combating Terrorism Act of 2001 on September 13, 2001.
  • The act proposed a few things:
  1. Report of the readiness of the National Guard
  2. Extensive research and development into terrorist attacks
  3. Review of authority of the Federal agencies

Public Safety and Cyber Security Enhancement Act

  • United States republican senator Lamar Smith proposed the Public Safety and Cyber Security Enhancement Act on September 20, 2001.
  • The act proposed a few things:
  1. Limiting unauthorized access of protected computers
  2. Making changes with pen register, trap and trace laws.
    1. Pen register: a device that registers the numbers dialed from a telephone.
    2. Trap law: restricting abortion
    3. Trace law: tracing the history of armed weapons
  3. Making changes that foreign intelligence gathering any of these laws would need a court order.
  4. Removed restrictions on prohibiting access to cable subscruber records and only prohibited disclosure of viewing patterns of cable TV subscribers.

Intelligence to Prevent Terrorism Act

  • United States democratic senators Bob Graham and Jay Rockefeller proposed the Intelligence to Prevent Terrorism Act on September 28, 2001.
  • The act proposed a few things:
  1. Attorney General or head of any Federal department must disclose to the Director of Central Intelligence.
  2. The Director of Central Intelligence and the Secretary of the Treasury must report to Congress about the idea of reconfiguring the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
  3. Director of Central Intelligence must establish and maintain a National Virtual Translation Center.
  4. Attorney General must provide a program of training for government officials about identification and the use of foreign intelligence.

Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001

  • United States republican senators Orrin Hatch and Arlen Specter along with democratic Patrick Leahy and John Ashcroft proposed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001.
  • The act proposed a few things:
  1. Extending roving wiretaps.
    1. Roving wiretaps: a wiretap used by the United States a surveillance target.

Financial Anti-Terrorism Act

  • United States republican senator Mike Oxley proposed the Financial Anti-Terrorism Act.
  • The act proposed a few things:
  1. Strengthening financial law enforcement by establishing the FinCEN as a bureau of the Department of the Treasury to help prevent money laundering and report legislation.
  2. Increase cooperation between the public and the private sectors of reporting and preventing financial crimes.

Security Changes After September 11th

Security and Freedom Ensured Act

After the attacks of September 11th the Patriot Act was put into place to help keep Americans safe. The Security and Freedom Ensured Act (SAFE) has been brought to Congress as a provision to the Patriot Act. It was introduced into the House on April 6, 2005 as a way to add a checks and balance system to the Patriot Act. According to the Security and Freedom Ensured Act, it revised the word "terrorist" to exclude groups of people such as anti-war protestors and pro and anti-abortion protestors. Also under SAFE provisions were made concerning wiretaps: (1) an order approving an electronic surveillance specify either the identity of the target or the place to be wiretapped; and (2) surveillance be conducted only when the suspect is present at the place to be wiretapped. Provisions are also to be made concerning search warrants include: (1) limit the authority to delay notice of the issuance of such a search warrant to circumstances where providing immediate notice of the warrant will endanger the life or physical safety of an individual, result in flight from prosecution or the intimidation of a potential witness, or result in the destruction of or tampering with the evidence sought under the warrant; and (2) require such delayed notification to be issued within seven days (currently, within a "reasonable period") after execution, with extensions by the court for additional periods of up to 21 calendar days each time that the court finds reasonable cause to believe that notice of the execution of the warrant would have such consequences. Requires the Attorney General, on a semiannual basis, to transmit to Congress and make public a report concerning all requests for delays of notice and for extensions of such delays.

New Technologies

To help ensure the safety of Americans from terrorism there were several technologies developed and put into place.

  • Wiretapping

Wiretapping is one of the biggest technologies the government uses to help fight terrorism today. By definition wiretapping is, eavesdropping on private conversations by connecting listening equipment to a telephone line. To be legal, wiretapping must be authorized by a search warrant or court order.

  • Sensor Technology

Sensor technology is being used to help fight biological, chemical, and radiological attacks. More and more technologies are being developed to sensor chemicals and biological weapons. Cargo container x-ray machines are also in the process of being developed to check for any type of threat that may be hidden in the large crate being brought into the country thorough our ports.

  • Biometric Tools

New biometric tools are being invented to help control access to buildings and offices. One of these tools includes fingerprint technology, which scans the fingerprints of the persons trying to access the restricted area. Under fingerprinting technology is being developed to identify human skin as well to help prevent terrorist from making fake fingerprints from other materials.

  • Weapon and Explosive Screening

Technology that blows puffs of air are now used to help find weapons and explosives that people may be carrying. The scanners then read the particles in the air looking for traces of explosives. Some of these new technologies are already in place in many airports across the world.

  • Closed Circuit Television

Closed circuit television (CCTV) has been used for a long time to help fight terrorism but it has been proven that there are many faults in this. Today there are new closed circuit televisions that watch themselves. This helps to cut down on human error. For example if a camera on this new system detects someone climbing over a fence, an alarm will sound alerting the person watching the security system.

Technologies Used in Airports

The question that haunts Americans with the Patriot Act, whether or not our rights are being violated, continues to be asked every time you are searched in an airport. There are several new technologies that are being used to help fight terrorism in our airports, but some citizens are beginning to wonder if it is worth the inconvenience. One example of these new technologies is the Backscatter X-ray. It is an x-ray machine that is so extreme that it can show details of the bodies' contours. Some argue that it is equivalent to a "virtual strip search". Another of these technologies is brain fingerprinting. It could be used to read the brain signals of potential terrorists. These technologies are in their early stages and may only be used with certain airlines so that customers can choose to have this extra security.


Access to Records

There are many Pros and Cons to the Patriot Act. The first Section that we will focus on is Section 215. This section “allows easier access to the business records in foreign intelligence investigations”

PRO: Allows investigators to obtain books, records, papers, documents and other items needed “in connection with” a terror investigation,according to The Patriot Act: Key Controversies

CON: According toThe Patriot Act: Key Controversies critics have attacked the provision, claiming the law could be used to demand the reading records of library or bookstore patrons.

This section relates to a lawsuit against the FBI, where they demanded the records of library patrons in Connecticut. Theses records were requested under the Library Clause, which gives the Government the right to search personal records of possible terror suspects. The clause includes searches of bookstores, businesses, hospitals and libraries. Critical details about this lawsuit were left out on the ACLU’s website due to the gag order the government placed on this issue. How are the American People supposed to learn about the Patriot act when the act itself is gagging public debate about it? This is the argument that ACLU’s lead lawyer, Ann Beeson is using in this case. This case is an example of a con that affects the American people.

Information Sharing

Section 203 (b) and (d) allows criminal information to be shared with intelligence agencies and other parts of the government.

PRO: provisions can greatly enhance the sharing of information inside the FBI and with other intelligence agencies, according to The Patriot Act: Key Controversies.

CON:According to The Patriot Act: Key Controversies unrestricted sharing could lead to the development of massive databases compiling records about citizens that are not targets of criminal investigation.

In contrast to the last case, U.S. Officials claim the “wall” that separates criminal and intelligence investigations is to blame for not finding two of the men involved in 9/11 before the attacks occurred. The CIA had information that the two men were suspected terrorists, but were not able to obtain the information until August 2001. It is thought that if this section was in effect it could have helped to possibly find these two men and maybe prevent the attacks.

We need to consider all of the Pro’s and Con’s to this controversial Act. This Act could possibly help us to prevent terror, but at what point does it go too far and infringe on our privacy rights.

Title-The Patriot Act Illuminated , Author George H, Pike, May 2007, Vol. 24 Issue 5, p17-18 2p "Ebsco'
American Civil Liberties Union , USA Patriot Act (11/14/2003)

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