An overview of the PATRIOT Act

The PATRIOT Act, officially the United and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, was quickly developed and passed after the events of September 11, 2001. The PATRIOT Act gives state, federal, and international intelligence agencies the power to conduct surveillance without first going into court and obtaining a warrant.


The PATRIOT Act impacted a large number of areas of law and government. Some of the areas included in the Act include:

  • Efforts to increase domestic security against terrorism.
  • Enhancements of surveillance procedures.
  • Enforcement tools to combat international money laundering.
  • Procedures to prevent the financing of terrorists.
  • Increases in border protection.
  • Various changes to existing immigration policies.
  • Resources to aid in investigations of terrorism.
  • Aid to families effected by terrorism.
  • Policies to increase information sharing between agencies.
  • Increased penalties for crimes related to terrorism.


Under the PATRIOT Act governmental agencies are permitted to intercept wire, oral, or electronic communications relating to terrorism.


Adverse Response to the PATRIOT ACT

Many people believe that the PATRIOT Act gives law enforcement agencies sweeping power to do as they please with respect to surveillance and interception of certain communications. Opponents of the Act believe that the Act is improper because many of its measures extend beyond terrorism and because they believe many of the policies eliminate government accountability. Opponents contend that there is no longer a system of checks and balances because the Act essentially eliminates any need for court intervention.


Favorable Response to the PATRIOT ACT

Proponents of the Act believe the act fills many of the prior gaps in inter-agency communication while also unifying government investigations regarding terrorism. Proponents contend that the Act improves the counter-terrorism efforts in the United States. Proponents also assert that the Act:

  • Permits law enforcement officers to use tools that were already available to them.
  • Permits federal agents to follow terrorists.
  • Permits law enforcement officers to conduct investigations.
  • Facilitates information sharing and cooperation.
  • Updates the law to reflect new technological changes.
  • Increases penalties for the commission of terrorist acts.

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