Thursday, October 15, 2009


The USA PATRIOT Act, or Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, is up for revision yet again. On December 31, 2009, three of the Act’s controversial provisions will sunset or potentially become reauthorized for a prolonged period.

Will the Obama administration recognize the PATRIOT Act’s immediate significance to the American public or circumvent the issue as the health care debate and foreign policy are deemed higher priority?

Capitol Hill has been holding its breath over the issue and at the forefront of the approaching sunset stands Section 215.

Previously, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) required federal law enforcement agencies to provide a substantiated formal request for any wiretapping devices used in counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations. Those restrictions were eliminated immediately following passage of the PATRIOT Act.

Section 215 of the Act permits federal law enforcement agencies limitless access to personal property (e.g., computers and laptops, telephones including mobile devices, private banking and financial statements, as well as library records).

Nowadays, wiretapping methods are legally implemented without disclosure meaning the alleged enemy will never be informed of the investigation. Consequently, Section 215 of the Act is arguably in violation of the 1st and 4th Amendments, specifically freedom of speech and association, and rights to privacy and personal property.

The extent to which one will or already has been affected by the PATRIOT Act remains unspecified. As technology and daily life continue to become fused together, the capacity of Section 215 to infiltrate one’s livelihood becomes painfully obvious.


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