Patriot Act I

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The USA Patriot Act (USAPA) PUBLIC LAW 107-56 (H.R. 3162) was passed by Congress on October 25, 2001 and signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. The popular title is acronym for the Uniting and Strengthening [of] America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act. Hurriedly passed in the wake of 9/11, the Act was intended to "deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes." The Act has been widely criticized as violative of Americans' privacy and civil liberties. Many of the Patriot Act's provisions were to sunset approximately four years after its passage, but after a fight between the House and Senate, the Act was renewed with few changes in March, 2006 in the PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005. Most recently, in February 2010, President Barack Obama signed a one-year extension of the act's three provisions that were set to expire.

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2010 Extension

Although the Patriot Act was once again set to expire in February 2010, President Obama signed a new one-year sunset of three provisions. [1] The three powers that will remain in place and unchanged for the period of March 2010 through February 2011, include: (1) "John Doe" roving wiretaps that allow surveillance multiple phones under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA); (2) secret orders that allow for the seizure of "any tangible thing" held by a third party without probable cause under FISA and issued by the FISA court; (3) the so-called "lone wolf" provision which allows FISA searches to target non-U.S. persons suspected of preparing for terrorist acts without showing any link to a suspected foreign terrorist group.[1] As part of a bipartisan agreement on a short-term straight extension of these provisions, Senate leadership removed changes and modest improvements to these provisions that had been adopted by the Senate Judiciary Committee, including new reporting requirements, based on the difficulty of passing them on the Senate floor without substantial hostile amendments following the special election in Massachusetts and the thwarted Christmas Day airline plot. [1]

Just before the bill passed on the House floor, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) mused that "we've come to love our fears more than we love our freedoms."

The ACLU has posted a "scorecard" noting how each representative voted on the Patriot Act reauthorization.

Language of the Act

According to the language in the Act itself, the short title was designated as "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act of 2001." This has been shortened by popular consent to "Patriot Act I".


A sense of the Act can be gleaned from the terminology contained in it. Words and phrases read like a lexicon for a good spy novel or "good guy-bad guy" anti-terrorism movie. Since September 11, 2001, much of this language has become part of everyday life and experience. The following is a lengthy list of terms found in Patriot Act I:

Attorney General Ashcroft on the Act

In his October 31, 2001 Department of Justice speech announcing the formation of the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, Attorney General John Ashcroft had this to say about the new powers of Patriot Act I:

"The Department of Justice is also moving forcefully to implement new authorities in our antiterrorism law. Today, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has issued guidance to immigration personnel informing them about the new power that the USA Patriot Act provides for them in terms of the detention, arrest, and removal of terrorist aliens.

"The act broadens the grounds of inadmissibility, that is grounds for which admission to the United States can be denied, to include representatives of groups that publicly endorse terrorist activity in the United States. It also makes aliens inadmissible if they provide material support to a designated terrorist organization; even if they don't specifically intend to support this terrorist activity, they are giving support to the organization which conducts terrorist activities, they can be denied admission to the United States. In most cases, aliens will be inadmissible under these new provisions for past support they had given to terrorist organizations.

"In addition, the USA Patriot Act requires the detention of aliens whom the attorney general certifies to be a threat to national security, or who are determined to have engaged -- to have been engaged -- let me start that over again. One, the attorney general, if he certifies that they are a threat to national security, they must be detained by a requirement of the USA Patriot Act; or two, if they are determined to have been engaged in terrorist activities. Once arrested, aliens must be charged with a criminal or immigration offense within seven days, under the act. If the charges are dismissed, the aliens will be released. Otherwise, charged aliens must be detained until they are removed from the United States, according to the act, or until they are determined no longer to pose a threat to national security. This measure, which is the equivalent of denying bail to violent offenders, will prevent dangerous aliens from being released to mingle among the American citizens that they would harm.

"Finally, I am today asking the secretary of State to designate 46 groups as terrorists organizations under the USA Patriot Act. All these groups have committed or planned violent terrorist acts, or serve as fronts for terrorist organizations.

"The groups to be designated as terrorist organizations include those linked to the al Qaeda network, whose assets the president has frozen, pursuant to an executive order. The remainder of the groups to be designated have been found by the Department of State, in its 'Patterns of Global Terrorism' report, to have engaged -- to have been engaged in terrorist activity. Designating these groups as terrorist organizations will enable us to prevent aliens who are affiliated with them from entering the United States.

"In addition, any aliens who are inadmissible because of their affiliation with these groups at the time they manage to enter our country would also be subject to removal.

"Now these restrictions apply to the groups' representatives and members. Also inadmissible are aliens who use their positions of prominence to endorse terrorist activity.

"As the president has emphasized, America's new war against terrorism has two fronts. Our armed forces will fight abroad against terrorism and the states that support terrorists abroad. It falls to all Americans to fight terrorism at home. Our borders divide these two fronts. The U.S.A. Patriot Act authorized vital new weapons for us to fight the war at the borders and here at home, and the Justice Department is committed to ensuring that these weapons are deployed quickly, that they're deployed efficiently, and that they're deployed effectively."


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External links

Patriot Act I headlines

Articles & Commentary

Reported Incidents






  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Obama Signs One-Year Extension of Patriot Act", FOXNews.Com, February 27, 2010, accessed September 8, 2010.