The USA PATRIOT Act is officially termed as “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism). This legislation was passed in 2001 after the massive incident of 9/11.
USA- PATRIOT Act was basically an anti-terrorism law which was enacted by U.S Congress at the request of then-President George W. Bush and was signed by Bush on Oct 26, 2001.
This law has goals to strengthen domestic security and widen the powers of law-enforcement agencies to restrict the terrorist attacks and identify the terrorists. Through the PATRIOT Act the U.S Department of Justice, National Security Agency and other national federal agencies were given enhanced powers for the surveillance of electronic communications.
The law has eliminated legal restrictions on law enforcement, intelligence, and defense agencies over sharing information regarding potential terrorist threats and coordinating efforts to answer them. With such objective, the US PATRIOT law has also increased the criticism from civil liberty groups that the law is undermining democracy and giving the government too much power.
10 Titles of The Act
There are ten main provisions or officially-named ‘Titles’ of the PATRIOT Act.
Title I (Enhancing Domestic Security Against Terrorism): This category refers to the protection of civil liberties. It legalizes the federal money to attain most of the provisions of Act. It also authorizes the Secret Service to develop a national electronic crime task force.
In this title, it is also mentioned that the president is authorized to seize the property of any foreign person who is suspected of helping in a war or attack in the US. Such seizures could be submitted to the court secretly as proof.
Title II (Increased Surveillance Processes): The clauses in this Title enhance the powers of law enforcement agencies to conduct surveillance on ‘agent of foreign powers’. It permits the intervention of communications if they signal to the terrorist activities. Law enforcement agencies could also share the information regarding terrorist activities with the federal authorities.
With Title II the roving surveillance is added to the law. This means, with a court order officers can monitor any person with any available means to intercepts the person’s communications. Previously, the court order could only allow access to wiretap only in one specific line location.
Title III (Anti-money laundering to counter terrorism): This category focuses on hindering the financial assistance of terrorists. There are provisions in title III which demands banks to take measures to stop money laundering, allow law enforcement agencies to collect information from banks and to develop increased prison terms for money laundering and smuggling.
Title IV (Border Security): Title IV encompasses the provisions to strengthen border security. It propels the higher funds for border patrols, customs officers, and immigration officials. Non-citizens with links to terrorist groups are banned to enter the US. Also, it demands the monitoring of foreign students.
Title V (Removing hindrance from terrorism investigation): The major part of Title V is the use of National Security Letters (NSL). An NSL is used to demand the release of information and paperwork related to an individual under investigation. The NSL could be used against the US citizens and it contains a gag order to prevent the target knowing or telling anyone else about NSL.
Title VI (Victims and families of victims of terrorism): This title contains the provision to provide financial assistance or compensation to victims of terrorism and their families.
Title VII (Enhancing information sharing for critical infrastructure protection): Authorization as well as budgeting for the increased information sharing between law enforcement agencies and jurisdictions.
Title VIII (Terrorism criminal law): This title of Patriot act induces various crimes to the list of things which falls under the act of terrorism. For instance, the attacking a mass transit system, using a biological weapon, assisting terrorism, and computer hacking. The provisions in this section also increase the penalties for terrorism crimes.
Title IX (Better Intelligence): This title introduces a method for sharing the information of national intelligence between government agencies.
Title X (Miscellaneous): The title X of encompasses various miscellaneous and relatively minor provisions.
The PATRIOT Act remains a hot debate since its enactment. The civil liberty groups offended the law that it violate constitutional rights, and allow government to invade the citizen’s privacy without any prior notice.
The federal government insists that the PATRIOT act must encompass the clauses to protect the rights of US citizens. Yet, some parts of the legislation were found illegal by the courts.
Therefore, the USA Freedom Act was signed by then-President Barack Obama on June 2, 2015 to prevent the PATRIOT Act from risking US citizen rights.