Eleven years ago, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon sparked a theme of patriotism in the U.S. former President George W. Bush named Sept. 11 Patriot Day in observance of those who died or were injured.
Legislation, thematically dubbed the USA Patriot Act, was met with overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress and was signed into law on Oct. 26, 2001, a month and a half after the attacks.
Controversy has surrounded the USA Patriot Act since its enactment in 2001. In question are provisions that allow the unprecedented use of surveillancetechniquesonsuspected terrorists or collaborators. Reasons for resistance by some lawmakers and civil rights advocates include the use of wiretapping, indefinite detentions of immigrants, searches of home and businesses without consent or prior notification and expanded access of law enforcement agencies to access telephone, email, financial and business records.
Advocates of the law argue the Patriot Act gives authorities the necessary tools to prevent further attacks and keep the U.S. safe. On the other hand, opponents argue the inadequate oversight provisions in the act give the government too much access to personal data without due process. This potentially opens up the possibility for ordinary citizens to have their Fourth Amendment rights violated or at the very least undermined in the sake of national security.
Since its inception, elements of the Patriot Act have been amended and renewed to broaden the scope of governmental powers. Though enacted into steadfast law, certain aspects of the act are in the process of periodic review and will expire if Congress doesn’t repass the legislation.
The 2001 draft of the Patriot Act amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. According to Section 206, FISA would allow roving wiretap authority under certain circumstances deemed admissible by the FISA court.
Originally, FISA was proposed and signed because of former President Richard Nixon’s extensivedomestic use of wiretapping. It was to ensure no governmental power could infringe on Fourth Amendment rights to privacy by wiretapping citizens on U.S. soil at any time under any circumstances.
In 2004, a provision of the Patriot Act called the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, also known as the “lone wolf” provision, allowed secret intelligence surveillance of non- U.S. citizens. Those subject to surveillance no longer needed to be a part of a foreign organization, terrorist or not.
Also under the Patriot Act, Section 215 expands the government’s authority to obtain “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism investigation. The section has been under public scrutiny because of the Fourth Amendment’s “unreasonable search and seizure” clause.
In 2011, the controversial provisions of the Patriot Act were due to expire; however, President Barack Obama signed a four-year extension after Congress voted in favor of the bill, keeping the Patriot Act unchanged until 2015.