September 11th, 2001, terrorists hijacked four commercial airline planes; two of the planes
were flown into the World Trade Center towers, one was flown into the Pentagon, and one
crash-landed in a field in Pennsylvania.
As a result, forty-five days after the terror attacks, George W. Bush signed into effect a bill that would
allow the justice department to wiretap phone calls, read emails and
text messages to help end the war on terrorism.
intent was for government and law enforcement agencies to be able to prevent
future acts of terrorism on American soil.
The name “The USA Patriot Act” is an acronym for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing
Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. ” The law was
intended to enforce penalties for any terrorist, as well as anyone who would help them. The act allows agencies to access information
and removed the restrictions of communications surveillance, also allowing
government agencies access to medical and financial records. Law enforcement agencies were ordered to focus
and work against financial counterfeiting, smuggling, and money laundering schemes that funded terrorist
organizations. The USA Patriot
Act now superseded all state laws.
Congress favored the bill, some members of
congress did not believe that this was enough to combat terrorism. Many civil rights groups believe that the bill
would allow too much power given to the executive branch. This law would allow the government to
investigate American’s phone calls, and emails.
The mission statement of the
Department of Justice is “The Department of
Justice’s priority is
to prevent future terrorist attacks. Since its passage following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Patriot Act has played a key part – and often the
leading role – in a number of successful operations to protect innocent
Americans from the deadly plans of terrorists dedicated to destroying America
and our way of life. While the results
have been important, in
passing the Patriot Act,
Congress provided for only modest, incremental changes in the law. Congress simply took existing legal principles
and retrofitted them to preserve the lives and liberty of the American people
from the challenges posed by a global terrorist network. ”
United States Patriot act allows many things to be expanded within the agencies. The act allows agencies new tools to aid in
the investigation of organized crime and drug trafficking. The FBI was now able to wiretap terrorists the
same way they were able to wiretap the mafia.
Before the Patriot act went into effect law
enforcement agencies could use electronic surveillance to investigate drug
and passport fraud. The new access to wiretaps allows a full
investigation into things such as Americans who were killed abroad, terrorism financing, and use of chemical weapons. The act also allows for roving wiretaps; these are effective with terror
suspects who will rapidly change location as well as changing communication
devices. The warrant (signed by a federal judge) would
allow the agents to track the suspect rather than just one phone number, one cell phone, or one email address.
federal agents would be allowed to conduct investigations without having to the
suspect know. If the suspect catches on that they are being
they may flee,
go into ghost mode with known associates,
kill witnesses, and anything to evade the police.
Federal courts allow for a delayed period that
the subject does not know that a judicially approved search warrant had been
issued. The suspect will be notified but first the
agency can investigate the suspect,
eliminate immediate threats to communities,
and organize the arrests of individuals who may tip off the suspect.
federal court can be asked for a search warrant into the business records of
companies and corporations in a national security terrorism case. Hardware stores or chemical plants are often
used to find out who bought materials to make a bomb, or to see who had funded any
terrorist organization. Through grand jury subpoenas law enforcement
authorities have been able to gather vital information from business records in
cases of national security. Police used library records to investigate the
zodiac Gunman who was inspired by a Scottish occult poet; with these records the agency was
able to see who had checked out the book.
Under the patriot act the government can ask
permission from a federal court for
aid in an investigation to obtain foreign intelligence, which does not concern an American
or to prevent acts of international terrorism
patriot act would remove many legal barriers that prevented law enforcement and
homeland security agencies from coordinating with each other. As a result,
town, state, intelligence and Legal agencies can
connect all the dots which can lead to the uncovering of terroristic plots, before they are enacted. “we simply cannot prevail in the battle
against terrorism if the right hand of our government has no idea what the left
hand is doing” Senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) at a press conference
and investigators were able to share and use information on the “Virginia Jihad.” Members of the Dar al-Arqam Islamic
center trained for Jihad in Northern Virginia, their
training included paintball matches and paramilitary training. This group included 8 people who had gone to
Afghanistan or Pakistan to receive terrorist training between 1999 and 2001. The members of this group had known
associations with an Islamic extremist group known as Lashkar-e-Taiba. Because of the act these officials were able
to bring charges against the group.
and three others were convicted of their charges in 2004. These charges include conspiracy to levy war
against the United states and conspiracy to provide material support to the
Taliban. Sentences ranged from four years to life in
law was then updated to include modern technologies. The patriot act updated technology that was
left over from the rotary telephone era.
After the death of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, authorities were able to use this
advanced technology to identify some of the killers. Law enforcement is now able to obtain a search
warrant for the area where a terrorist attack had occurred. Victims of computer hacking can request law
enforcement assistance in monitoring the hackers.
This put cyber trespassers at the same level
of criminality as physical trespassers.
Penalty against those who committed terroristic acts was increased in both
foreign and domestic events. As a new offense it prohibits knowingly
harboring people who have or are going to commit terrorist acts, including but are not limited to
destruction of aircraft,
use of nuclear chemicals or biological weapons,
weapons of mass destruction,
bombing of Govt. property,
including nuclear facilities,
and aircraft piracy. An increase in penalty for varying crimes committed
these crimes can include,
arson, destruction of energy
material support to terrorists and their organizations, and destruction of national defense
increased penalty on crimes also includes conspiracy penalties. Conspiracy to commit arson, killing in federal facilities, attacking communication systems, material support to terrorists, sabotage of nuclear facilities, and interference with flight crew
members. Under previous terrorism laws there was
nothing that prohibited conspiracy to commit these offenses. Under previous
statutes terrorists could only be charged with general federal conspiracy provision, which is a
maximum sentence of five years in prison.
of justice’s website states “The government’s success in preventing another catastrophic attack on
the American homeland since September 11, 2001, would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, without the USA
Patriot Act. The authorities
Congress provided have substantially enhanced our ability to prevent, investigate, and prosecute
acts of terror. ” 2
9/11 many members of congress opposed measures that would soon be a part of the
Patriot act. Many members of congress believed that the
measures now put into play were unconstitutional.
Due to the events of September 11th
those objections were put away,
only one senator voted against it,
democratic senator Russell Feingold.
The next day the House of Representatives
passed the bill 357-66. The
final bill was 342 pages,
changing 15 existing laws. On the 26th of October, President George W. Bush signed the Patriot Act into effect. He praised the “new
tools to fight the present danger.
a threat like no other our Nation has ever
faced.” He also asserted that
the Patriot Act “upholds
and respects the civil liberties guaranteed by our Constitution.” The Patriot Act defines “domestic terrorism” as activities within the United
States that involve acts deemed dangerous to human life that appear to be
to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.
fourth amendment of the U. S. Constitution,
a person is protected in their homes,
and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures. Because of the fourth amendment, to legally
search a home,
or their belongings,
a law enforcement official must gain a search warrant. To receive a warrant the police officer must
make a sworn statement to a judge,
stating the places that will be searched,
the people who are being searched for,
and potentially seized,
and any items that are being looked for specifically. The judge can only sign off on a warrant if
the Police have “probable
cause” of the person’s criminality.
the Patriot act the availability of a search warrant is greater; the FBI is now able to meet before
the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to gain a search warrant for “any tangible items” that may link the suspect to
terrorism. As a result,
the FBI must ensure that the search is to protect from international terrorism
and spying. The Patriot act now authorizes the court to
issue a search warrant for any person believed to be involved in terrorist acts. These acts can stem from first amendment
rights of free speech such as peaceful protesting.
can be anything such as books,
logs/ or personal records,
etc. The patriot act now prohibits any third-party
members such as librarians,
or internet service providers to inform the person who is being searched. In section 216 of the Patriot act the Pen trap
now includes email and web browsing on top of phone calls.
three states (Alaska,
and Vermont) as well as 149 cities,
towns, and counties submitted
changes on the Patriot act. Due to the criticism of the act congress
rethought the constitutionality of the act.
The house of representative voted 309-118 to
repeal the sneak and peek searches.
Democratic senator Ron Wyden from Oregon, and Republic senator Lisa Murkowski
of Alaska pushed a bill that would allow the sneak and peek searches to be used
but the person being investigated would have to be notified within seven
the time attorney general and other public office holders offered support for
the act because we were at war at the time.
The attorney general Ashcroft believed that “we have to do things differently than
we did before.” Stating
that the act was “to
prevent terrorists form unleashing more death and destruction.” But also believed that the courts
and congress still protected the constitutional rights of Americans.
2003 attorney general Ashcroft pushed for another law called “the Patriot Act II”, would allow the government to revoke
the citizenship of any American who provided material support to any terrorist
organizations. Opposition to the patriot act grew in July of
2003, the American civil
liberties union filed a suit against section 215;
stating the searches of anyone’s
personal files is unconstitutional.
patriot act is still in effect today, president Barack Obama re-signed the act
into effect in 2011 and 2015.