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Flashpoints USA with Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill Photo: Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill
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Sacrifices of Security - 7.15.03
In Focus  :  USA Patriot Act  :  Provisions of the Act
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Flashpoints USA with Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill is an innovative public affairs series from PBS that brings together both compelling examinations of critical issues and a dynamic pairing of two of the most respected names in journalism.


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Provisions of the Act
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Profiling Airport Security USA Patriot Act


Key Provisions of the USA Patriot Act include:

Criminal Investigations: Tracking and Gathering Communications
The Act modifies the procedures at each of the three levels. It:

  • permits pen register and trap and trace orders for electronic communications (e.g., e-mail);
  • authorizes nationwide execution of court orders for pen registers, trap and trace devices, and access to stored e-mail or communication records;
  • treats stored voice mail like stored e-mail (rather than like telephone conversations);
  • permits authorities to intercept communications to and from a trespasser within a computer system (with the permission of the system's owner);
  • adds terrorist and computer crimes to Title III's predicate offense list;
  • encourages cooperation between law enforcement and foreign intelligence investigators;
  • terminates the authority found in many of these provisions and several of the foreign intelligence amendments with a sunset provision (Dec. 31, 2005).

Foreign Intelligence Investigations
The Act eases some of the restrictions on foreign intelligence gathering within the United States, and affords the U.S. intelligence community greater access to information unearthed during a criminal investigation, but it also establishes and expands safeguards against official abuse.
More specifically, it:

  • permits "roving" surveillance (court orders omitting the identification of the particular instrument, facilities, or place where the surveillance is to occur when the court finds the target is likely to thwart identification with particularity);
  • increases the number of judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court from 7 to 11;
  • allows application for a FISA surveillance or search order when gathering foreign intelligence is a significant reason for the application rather than the reason;
  • authorizes pen register and trap & trace device orders for e-mail as well as telephone conversations;
  • sanctions court ordered access to any tangible item rather than only business records held by lodging, car rental, and locker rental businesses;
  • carries a sunset provision;
  • establishes a claim against the U.S. for certain communications privacy violations by government personnel; and
  • expands the prohibition against FISA orders based solely on an American's exercise of his or her First Amendment rights.

Other Crimes, Penalties, & Procedures
New crimes: The Act creates new federal crimes for terrorist attacks on mass transportation facilities, for biological weapons offenses, for harboring terrorists, for affording terrorists material support, for misconduct associated with money laundering already mentioned, for conducting the affairs of an enterprise which affects interstate or foreign commerce through the patterned commission of terrorist offenses, and for fraudulent charitable solicitation. Although strictly speaking these are new federal crimes, they generally supplement existing law by filling gaps and increasing penalties.

Other Procedural Adjustments:
In other procedural adjustments designed to facilitate

  • criminal investigations, the Act:
  • increases the rewards for information in terrorism cases;
  • authorizes "sneak and peek" search warrants;
  • permits nationwide and perhaps worldwide execution of warrants in terrorism cases;
  • eases government access to confidential information;
  • allows the Attorney General to collect DNA samples from prisoners convicted of any federal crime of violence or terrorism;
  • lengthens the statute of limitations applicable to crimes of terrorism;
  • clarifies the application of federal criminal law on American installations and in residences of U.S. government personnel overseas; and
  • adjust federal victims' compensation and assistance programs.



*source: Congressional Research Service



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