Sections of PATRIOT Act (2001)

This Act was passed after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Its purpose is “to deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes.”

Some portions have drawn criticism on the basis of the Fourth Amendment and privacy. There is no requirement for the government to demonstrate probable cause before launching an investigation; rather, the government must show only that the information is needed for an ongoing terrorism investigation. The Act allows for what have been called “sneak and peek” searches—Federal district courts may “allow a delay of required notices of the execution of a warrant if immediate notice may have an adverse result.” This has received disapproval from those who say that being notified of a search is part of the Fifth Amendment’s due process requirement.

Seizures under the Act are secret: “No person shall disclose to any other person (other than those persons necessary to produce the tangible things under this section) that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has sought or obtained tangible things under this section.” This section has been criticized by those who say that it infringes on the free speech rights of those being investigated. However, the Act notes several times that investigations may not be conducted “solely upon the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.”