Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act)
Pub. L. 107-56 (132 pp. PDF)
Background. The USA PATRIOT Act was created in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, and became law less than two months after those attacks.
General Provisions. The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 modified many major U.S. intelligence, communications, and privacy laws, including:
In addition, the PATRIOT Act amends other statutes that are less directly significant in the Information Sharing Environment, such as the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, 12 U.S.C. § 1841 et seq.; the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, 12 U.S.C. § 1811 et seq.; the Right to Financial Privacy Act of 1978, 12 U.S.C. § 3401 et seq.; and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.
Official summaries provide section-by-section descriptions of the PATRIOT Act’s provisions:
- the 2001 Act,
- the 2005 reauthorizing act,
- the 2006 amending and reauthorizing act, and
- the 2011 four-year extension of the "lone wolf" definition, authorization of "roving wiretaps" and "request for production business records" search authority.
Also see U.S. Department of Justice summary of highlights of the PATRIOT Act.
Also see Congressional Research Service (CRS) materials discussing the PATRIOT Act:
Amendments. The USA PATRIOT Act has been reauthorized and amended several times since its initial enactment. First, by the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005, Pub. L. 109-177 (87 pp. PDF), then by the USA PATRIOT Act Additional Reauthorization Amendments Act of 2006, Pub. L. 109-178 (6 pp. PDF), and subsequent actions as summarized below.
The USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act of 2009 amends the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 to extend until December 31, 2013. The renewed provisions authorize roving electronic surveillance and the production of tangible things, including books, records, papers, and documents, for foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations. A summary of the Act is available from the Library of Congress.
Since 2010, certain provisions of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 related to PATRIOT powers were extended by a series of Congressional actions, with the most recent granting a five-year extension through June 1, 2015. Below are summaries of those actions:
The Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act of 2009 (H.R. 3961; Pub. L. 111-141; 2/24/2010) was the mechanism that amends the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 to extend through February 28, 2011, provisions granting roving surveillance authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) where the court finds that the actions of the target may thwart the identification of a specified person or other persons (by using multiple devices or modes of communication, among other means); authorizing the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to apply for a court order requiring production of tangible things (including books, records, papers, and documents), not merely business records, for foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations; and amends the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 to extend through February 28, 2011, an amendment to FISA that redefines "agent of a foreign power" to include any non-U.S. person who engages in international terrorism or activities in preparation for such terrorism ("lone wolf" provision).
The PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011 (S.990; Pub. L. 112-14; 5/26/2011) amends the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 to extend until June 1, 2015, provisions concerning roving electronic surveillance orders, requests for the production of business records and other tangible things; and amends the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 to extend until June 1, 2015, a provision revising the definition of an "agent of a foreign power" to include any non-U.S. person who engages in international terrorism or preparatory activities (the "lone wolf" provision). The provisions had previously been extended until May 27, 2011 by H.R. 514; Pub. L. 112-3 on 2/25/2011.
Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Several sections of the Act emphasize the need to protect the civil rights and civil liberties of all Americans and to condemn any acts of violence or discrimination. Section 214 of Title II of the Act prohibits the use of pen registers and trap and trace equipment in investigations that are based solely on activities protected by the First Amendment. Title X of the PATRIOT Act directs the Inspector General of the Department of Justice to designate an official to review allegations of civil rights or civil liberties violations, including ethnic and racial profiling.
Two bills amending the PATRIOT Act became law on March 9, 2006. The USA PATRIOT Act Additional Reauthorizing Amendments Act of 2006 implemented options to enhance protection of civil liberties and to permit challenges to the legality of a records production order issued by the F.B.I., including any accompanying nondisclosure order (an order prohibiting the person receiving the production order from disclosing that the FBI sought information. A one-page summary of these changes is at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:SN02271:@@@D&summ2=m& while a longer summary (74 pp. PDF) of this amendment is at: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/intel/RL33332.pdf. A Congressional Research Service (CRS) summary of the amendment (8 pp. PDF) can be viewed at: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/intel/RS22384.pdf.
Further Information. Unofficial commentaries on the PATRIOT Act are available from several public interest advocacy groups, including: