NARRATOR: In the wake of 9/11, President George W Bush
and his administration acted swiftly to expand
government surveillance powers.
But the measure was almost instantly controversial.
The terrorist organization Al-Qaeda coordinated four
attacks on major US landmarks.
In total, 2,996 people were killed on 9/11.
It was the most fatal attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor.
In response, President George W Bush and his administration
proposed a new law called the USA Patriot Act, or the Uniting
and Strengthening America by Providing
Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept
and Obstruct Terrorism Act.
The Patriot Act received overwhelming bipartisan support
In the Senate, the bill was passed
almost unanimously, 96 to one.
In the House, it was passed 357 to 66.
On October 25, 2001, the USA Patriot Act was signed into law
without any amendments.
For a bill that passed so quickly,
it was very long, and very dense.
Few lawmakers read it in full before they voted for it.
The law was also full of controversy
and quickly became the subject of a lot
of criticism and debate.
Many went so far as to call it unconstitutional.
The Patriot Act included all kinds
of new rules and amendments, particularly ones
about surveillance and national security.
It included amendments to the Wiretap Act.
This let police obtain court orders to spy
and eavesdrop on suspected cyber criminals and terrorists
by intercepting their phone calls,
emails, and any other form of communication.
It added credit card and bank account numbers
to a government-controlled database that could be
accessed with quote permission.
It also allowed government officials
to use trap and trace devices and conduct
sneak and peek searches.
Trap and trace devices can trace phone calls
to individuals and addresses.
Sneak and peek searches are searches where officials
or police can break into someone's home or office
and snoop around without their permission.
In other words, the Patriot Act made it easier for the FBI
to spy on Americans and search their homes.
Provisions in the Patriot Act also increased powers
to combat money laundering, tripled the number
of Border Patrol, Customs Service, and Immigration
and Naturalization Service personnel
along the northern US border, established
new terrorism-related grounds to detain or deport
foreign nationals, or deny them entry
into the US in the first place, and created
a new list of terrorist crimes.
But how does this translate into action?
People supporting the Patriot Act
argued that it increase the chances of catching terrorists
by granting more government access
and promoting cooperation between the CIA and the FBI
through information sharing.
The argument was often made that those without terrorist ties
would have nothing to hide from these agencies.
Since its conception, at least 50 terrorist acts
have been thwarted.
But it's hard to know if that's directly
related to the Patriot Act.
In actuality, the Patriot Act has done more to catch
drug dealers than terrorists.
Americans feel mixed about that.
Reducing crime across the board is considered
a good thing, a priority that crosses party lines.
But many Americans are skeptical of the government
using laws outside of their original intent.
Americans have also criticized the act
for being unconstitutional.
In particular, they took issue with section 215
for violating the Fourth Amendment, the protection
against unlawful searches and seizures
by permitting warrantless searches.
People also question section 505,
which allowed the government to impose gag orders,
as well as investigate people based on their speech.
Many saw this as a direct violation
of our First Amendment rights.
Others went on to criticize the act's implicit promotion
of racial profiling.
The American Civil Liberties Union or ACLU,
along with several US senators, took legal action
against the Patriot Act.
In 2004, judges struck some key provisions,
ruling them unconstitutional.
Over the years, some parts of the Patriot Act
have expired or been struck down,
while others have been renewed.
Since its inception, the Patriot Act
has garnered strong reactions.
Supporters argue it has allowed government agencies
to cooperate, made it easier to catch criminals,
and prevent future terrorist attacks.
Those against it see surveillance is dangerous,
and in violation of free speech, infringing
on the Bill of Rights with unclear
results when it comes to protecting
people from terrorism.
So the age old question remains, can
giving up constitutional rights help keep us safe?
Or does it take away liberties without giving
us added protection?