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What Is the Patriot Act? - Definition, Summary, Pros & Cons

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  • 0:03 Definition
  • 0:46 Summary
  • 1:53 Pros & Cons
  • 2:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

Learn about the U.S. Patriot Act in this lesson. Review a summary of the Patriot Act and the key components of the law. Examine the pros and cons of the act to gain a thorough understanding of the law.

Definition

Chances are, you know exactly where you were and what you were doing on September 11, 2001. This tragic day in American history will never be forgotten, and the Patriot Act is one piece of legislation which directly arose from the day's events. The Patriot Act is actually an acronym for the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001. The Act was enacted in October of 2001, right after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11. The Patriot Act is legislation which seeks to combat terrorism.

Summary

The Patriot Act is a lengthy document. However, its key components can be narrowed down into several primary points. Initially, under the Patriot Act, law enforcement agencies can utilize extensive surveillance when investigating terrorists and potential terrorists. For instance, this surveillance allows for roving wiretaps, which are a type of wiretap where one person can be followed, as opposed to one telephone. In addition, the Patriot Act allows law enforcement to obtain records easily. These records include business and financial records, but also personal records such as library book checkout records. Furthermore, the Patriot Act helps law enforcement by modernizing the devices and techniques they can utilize when working in the field, such as the use of modern phone and computer equipment. Moreover, the Patriot Act fosters the sharing of information among various agencies in order to help track and capture terrorists. Furthermore, the Patriot Act features significantly harsh penalties for those individuals who are found guilty of terrorist acts.

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