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

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Thomas Nast: Cartoons, Biography & Quotes

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:03 Definition
  • 0:46 Summary
  • 1:53 Pros & Cons
  • 2:54 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed
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.


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.


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.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account