Politics

Study Notes

USA PATRIOT Act 2001

Level:
A Level
Board:
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB, Eduqas, WJEC

The USA PATRIOT Act is a 2001 act of Congress signed into Law on October 26th 2001, after the September 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The act’s longer title is “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act”

The PATRIOT Act was rushed through Congress after the September 11 Attacks, it entered Congress onto the House floor on October 23rd 2001, it was passed by the House on October 24th 2001, and the Senate on October 25th 2001, with President Bush signing it into law the following day.

The Act itself is made up of 10 chapters, which are detailed briefly below:

1: Enhancing Domestic Security against Terrorism

  • Provides funding for counter terrorism activities
  • Condemns discrimination towards Arab and Muslin Americans
  • Expanded the Presidential power during a terrorist incident

2: Surveillance Procedures

  • Increased the scope of surveillance activities including wiretapping.
  • Accessing voicemail was made available under a search warrant rather than wiretapping rules
  • Allowed the FBI to gather information on suspects from all sources including documentation, books, papers and records.

3: Anti-Money-Laundering to prevent Terrorism

  • Strengthened rules to prevent, detect and prosecute money laundering whereby the result was financing of terrorism.

4: Border Security

  • Expanded the Border Force
  • Allowed detention of illegal immigrants for up to 90 days but could be held up 6 months if they were deemed a national security threat.

5: Removing Obstacles to Investigating Terrorism

  • Allowed the US Government to pay rewards for assistance in combatting terrorism
  • Expanded the power of FBI local field offices to issue subpoenas in terrorism related cases (This was previously done by Director of the FBI)

6: Victims and Families of Victims of Terrorism

  • Created a fund for those injured in the line of duty, or for the families of those killed.

7: Increased information sharing for critical infrastructure protection

  • Defines Terrorism as a criminal activity

8: Terrorism criminal law

  • Revised definitions of crimes to include terrorism which included revisions to some definitions such as kidnapping, racketing or cyber terrorism.
  • Concealing or harbouring a terrorist was also a crime.

9: Improved Intelligence

  • Improved the dissemination of information gathered by federal agencies

10: Miscellaneous

  • A collection of miscellaneous provisions including issuing of HAZMAT licenses, training for police in South and East Asia, tests of biometric passports and increasing the penalty for impersonating a Red Cross member from one year to five years in prison

The Act has clauses built into it to ensure that parts of the legislation expired, however parts were renewed in 2011 by Barack Obama and then further renewed in 2015 under the USA Freedom Act.

The Act is one of the most controversial in US history being the subject of numerous court cases over different sections all claiming breaches of the constitution.

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