USA PATRIOT ACT


The USA PATRIOT Act has enabled many of the FBI's key post-9/11 improvements in counterterrorism, intelligence, and information sharing. Without it, the institutions we rely on daily to perform our counterterrorism mission - the National Counterterrorism Center, the Terrorist Screening Center, and the Joint Terrorism Task Forces - would face significant challenges. Our national counterterrorism strategy, which integrates the use of intelligence and law enforcement tools to prevent attacks, would be unworkable.

Patriot Act allows a new approach to investigations and intelligence

  • The Patriot Act removed legal barriers that made it difficult to share information between criminal investigations on the one hand and counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations on the other.
  • For example, prior to the Patriot Act, in any investigation in which we contemplated using wiretaps in terrorism and espionage investigations (pursuant to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), coordination between law enforcement and intelligence personnel was prohibited. Thanks to the Patriot Act, criminal investigators and intelligence agents can now share the information they collect about terrorists and spies and employ these national security wiretaps while we also use the criminal investigative process.
  • The Patriot Act also modified the rules governing handling of information obtained through a grand jury or wiretaps in criminal investigations, so that we can more easily share foreign intelligence information obtained through these criminal investigative tools with partners in the U.S. Intelligence Community.

Patriot Act helps us adapt to new technologies

  • Before the Patriot Act, many of our investigative tools did not account for new communications technologies like e-mail, voicemail, and cell phones, leaving loopholes that terrorists could exploit. The Patriot Act made some common sense changes to adapt existing authorities to new technologies.
  • Before the Act, law enforcement could get court authorization for a "roving wiretap" to track a drug dealer who switched from one cell phone to another, but we could not get a similar authority to track terrorists. Now we can.
  • The so-called pen register/trap and trace statute allows us to collect non-content information about a communication, such as the numbers dialed on a telephone. The Act updates this statute to account for Internet communications.

Patriot Act gives us new tools to help track sources of terrorist financing

  • Terrorists often make use of informal systems to transfer funds in a manner that is difficult to trace. The Patriot Act makes it illegal to run an unlicensed foreign money transmittal business.
  • The Act strengthened the existing ban on providing material support to terrorists and enhanced our authority to seize terrorists assets.
  • The Patriot Act established stricter rules for foreign accounts in U.S. banks, and required securities brokers and dealers and certain cash businesses to file Suspicious Activity Reports for a wider range of financial transactions.

Protecting civil liberties

  • There has not been a single verified abuse of any of the Act's provisions
  • The Act was reauthorized and additional safeguards added